REVIEW: BEAUTY AND THE BEAST

at BDT Stage

by Mona Lott

Boulder Dinner Theater has been entertaining audiences since 1977. During that time they have created a standard and style that is indicative of BDT.  A standard and a style that makes choosing to see a show at BDT a no-brainer. The production values are high with inventive staging, joyous choreography, a live orchestra  and performances that easily compare to some Broadway touring shows you would see at The Denver Center.

That being said, the current production treading the boards at what is arguably Colorado’s favorite dinner theater, doesn’t quite live up to the venues history of outstanding theater and indicates that this show is more beast than beauty.

To be fair, Disney’s musical theater version of Beauty and The Beast was not a critical success back in 1994. It was nominated for nine Tony Awards but only won one, for best costumes. Some praised the design elements of the show, though most found the special effects to be too much, diminishing the theatrical elements and taking for granted an audience members ability to imagine.  BDT’s version seems to fall into the same traps, with special effects that are not quite special enough, especially in the final moments of the show when a transformation scene becomes downright laughable with exposed wires and poor execution.

Augmented with digital projections, an overbearing sound design featuring somewhat ridiculous roars for the beast and a lighting design that leaves most of the actors in the dark or the shadows through most of the show, this production of Beauty and The Beast doesn’t succeed in creating magic but somehow diminishes the magic of live theater instead.

Were it not for the missteps in design, most of the cast would excel in fine performances, standouts including Bob Hoppe as Lumiere, Scott Beyette as Cogsworth and Tracy Warren as Mrs. Potts.

Hoppe brings a sense of command to the role of Lumiere, making him respectable while at the same time letting him burst forth with joyful abandon and playful silliness. His dancing is effortless and his star turn in “Be Our Guest” is so fun and such a delight that it easily becomes one of the best moments in the show, The lights rise on this scene and depart from the dark shadows plaguing the rest of the show to reveal beautifully adorned costumes by Linda Merken, playful choreography by Alicia K. Meyers and Matthew D. Peters and a flashback to the caliber of show one normally encounters at BDT.

Cogsworth is given an anxiety ridden performance by Beyette who manages to bring a bit of comedy to the production. Warren as Mrs. Potts is so charming, lovely and pleasant that her outstanding vocal performance of the title song easily rivals the original. Wayne Kennedy also fares well in the almost thankless role of Belle’s father Maurice, bringing such ease and stage competency to his performance that it’s not hard to see why he is a BDT favorite.

Scott Severtson as Gaston shines in another great moment with the spirited performance of Maison des Lunes. The choreography is fun and Leo Battle as Le Fou gets into the action as well. Overall though, Gaston and Le Fou are not quite big enough to bring a true sense of villainy to the roles. Again, the obtrusive design elements diminish what otherwise may have been good performances,

In the title roles, Lillian Buonocore as Belle and understudy, Matthew D. Peters as the Beast are confronted with the same design pitfalls that seem to curse this ambitious production. Buonocore is beautiful as is her strong singing voice, but her performance seems to be missing a sense of likability. A challenging role to play, Belle is strong, independent and a bit quirky, but Buonocore has been directed to make Belle more insolent and snarky like a spoiled teenage princess rather than the Beauty she is meant to be.

Peters who also co-directed and choreographed this production with Alicia K. Meyers found himself stepping into the role of The Beast as Cole LaFonte’s understudy. Peters’ performance was totally lost, hidden by amplified roars that seemed to get goofier and goofier and prosthetics that hid most of his face. His characterization lacked any sense of fear and erased any sort of tension that would make one root for poor Belle to escape his clutches. Again, the design elements weigh down Peters’ performance and leave him dangling above the stage by all too noticeable wires and rigging making the climactic transformation back into a prince just  silly and laughable.

Though there are some fine performances and an ambitious attempt at Disney magic, BDT may have bitten off more than it could chew with a production of Beauty and The Beast that seems to be more beast than beauty.

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST Is entertaining audiences now through September 21st at the BDT Stage in Boulder. For tickets or more information, contact the Box Office by calling 303-449-6000 or online at www.bdtstage.com  

 

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