“Beauty and the Beast” — first a fairy tale, then a Disney animation and now a live stage production at Beef & Boards Dinner Theater — follows the story of Belle, her love for her father and her eventual love for the beast who kept her prisoner.
The opening number of the show, “Belle” introduces us to the three central characters: Belle (Julia Bonnett), whose interest in books makes her an oddity in the village; Gaston (Jon McHatton), a muscle-bound narcissist intent on wooing Belle as his bride; and Maurice (Ty Stover), Belle’s eccentric inventor father.
In the story, Maurice gets lost in the woods on the way to an inventor’s fair and wanders into the castle owned by the Beast (Preston Yates). Belle arrives to rescue her father and, against his objections, exchanges her freedom for his. Belle, now a prisoner in the Beast’s castle, at first rejects the Beast’s efforts to be kind but gradually warms to him and eventually comes to love him.
There is much to enjoy in “Beauty and the Beast.” Bonnett is perfectly cast as Belle. With wigs by Kurt Alger and makeup by Daniel Klingler, she not only looks the part, but she sounds almost exactly like the voice of Belle in Disney’s animated version.
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Klingler’s makeup misses no detail — from the clock hands mustache (because what good is an enchanted castle if it’s furniture can’t move and talk) and the number 12 on the forehead of Cogsworth (John Vessels) to the moveable prosthesis on the lower half of the Beast’s face, enabling the mask to move whenever he speaks.
Yates’ vocals fill the venue for his solos, but something about his singing or the physical exertions during the performance seems to result in Yates being short of breath. There are a number of times when audience members can hear him breathing heavily, leaving one to wonder if he is OK.
The antics of the three Silly Girls, featuring Mt. Vernon senior Samantha Russell, in their attempts to win the attention and affection of Gaston, are highly amusing. They whine in perfect harmony when they realize that Gaston has his sights set on Belle instead of one of them.
Gaston’s marriage proposal to Belle takes place in the form of a well-executed dance as Belle tries to escape his proximity, but Gaston keeps a tight hold on her hand and spins her around and back into his arms, much to her disgust and dismay, several times during the number.
The comic relief in the show is provided by the interaction between Gaston and LeFou (Samuel P. McKanney). It is LeFou’s job to cater to Gaston’s every need, play yes man to all of his ideas, and, distressingly, serve as Gaston’s punching bag every time something doesn’t go right in Gaston’s plans. When Gaston’s plans to woo and marry Belle, get Maurice locked up in the looney bin or lead the villagers on a witch hunt to kill the Beast hit a snag, LeFou took a hit for the team one too many times for comfort.
The costumes worn by Belle and the household staff are among the highlights of the production. Belle first appears in quaint peasant garb but finishes the show in a lush yellow gown, her trademark costume. The household staff – Lumiere the candlestick (Alan M-L Wager), Cogsworth the Clock, Madame de la Grande Bouche the bureau (Kelly Teal Goyette) and Mrs. Potts the teapot (Suzanne Stark) are all exquisite in a variety of velvet, satin, lame, sequins and trim. Babette the feather duster (Erin Becker), in her form-fitting lavender dress, which finishes out in ostrich feathers around her lower legs, is especially elegant.
It’s not the fault of Beef & Boards that “Beauty and the Beast” is a couple of songs too long. The first act clocked in at well over an hour. “Beauty and the Beast” takes the slot of Beef & Boards’ annual family show, designed to include children in the theater-going audience. Although children as young as 3 would likely recognize Belle and easily follow the plot line, I don’t know too many young children who could sit through the Beast’s brooding ballad “If I Can’t Love Her” or the mysterious “Maison des Lunes.”
But the memorable songs that made the jump from the animated version to the stage version of “Beauty and the Beast” carry the show, and the audience leaves happily ever after.
“Beauty and the Beast”
When: through July 10
Where: Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre, 9301 Michigan Road, Indianapolis
Visit beefandboards.com for show times and ticket information