There is one basic, tragic flaw in Beauty and the Beast
: just as we fall in love with the beast -- all hair and growls, a surefire scene-stealer at bear night -- he is transformed into a handsome prince. No knocks against Prince Charming, but sometimes even a Belle wants a full meal.
The production of Beauty and the Beast
at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts is a big old-fashioned unabashed family musical spectacle. Disney is careful about protecting its brands, so quality is assured -- except for some comical instead of terrifying wolf puppets -- and the cast, egged on by the hordes of squealing children (and a few of us theatre queens), is energetic and eager to please.
There are confetti, billowing smoke and glitter cannons, and when the stage floods with dancing cutlery for "Be Our Guest" all one can do is clap for joy and sing along. This reviewer had talked before the show to Enchanted Object -- the production's designation for the ensemble -- David Baur
, who plays Carpet, and it was a delight to watch his dazzling acrobatics and blinding smile. It may be bad manners to stop the show, but he earned his moments of applause that rang over the vocals that followed.
Matt Farcher makes a great Gaston, all macho muscles and meatheadedness. All the flexing, posing and guttural, low-sung notes unbalances the show slightly, as Belle should at least have given him a tumble if not her hand in marriage -- most of the gays in the audience would have. The Enchanted Objects are consistent fun; Jen Bechter, as Madame de la Grande Bouche, a vanity table, steals every scene she's in with mugging and trilling worthy of an old-school drag queen. The sub-plot of the talking, walking furniture and culinary creatures struggling to regain their humanity has more urgency than the central love story, and it is a bit unsettling, in a very good way, to be rooting for a teapot instead of two star-crossed lovers. But then if Belle had bedded the Beast . . .
Before the show Miss Conception gushed about how excited she was -- Beauty and the Beast
was the first musical she ever saw and it led to a lifetime love of theatre. Chances are any child or child-at-heart who gets to enjoy this production will develop the same addiction.
Beauty and the Beast runs till Sat, July 22 at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, 145 Queen St W.