The Beast roared into town this week and he’s only here for two short weeks until June 24, so I’m adding him to the list of Summer Fun 2012. As a special way to celebrate the end of the school year, I took my rising first grader to see Disney’s Beauty & The Beast, produced by NETworks Presentations, at National Theatre on Tuesday night. Little delights a 6-year-old more than a favorite Disney movie coming to life in a musical production and I figured, what better way to treat her to a special night in honor of how hard she worked all school year-long.
The production did not disappoint. Coming down from the high of Arena Stage’s Music Man, I am beginning to think we are very spoiled in DC due to the breath of musical theatre productions at our disposal. What I most looked forward too were the costumes – how would they display Mrs Potts, Lumiere, Cogsworth and the Beast? Having taken a sneak peek at the video montage of the show in advance, mainly to make sure my daughter wouldn’t be afraid of the Beast, I knew the costumes would be first-rate and they really were. Lumiere quickly became the favorite character among our little group of friends (the moms, that is). His quick wit, charm, fantastic French accent and effortless desire to flirt added humor and pizzazz to every scene he was in. We marveled over Mrs Potts and how much her arm must have hurt to hold it out as the sprout on the tea-pot for the duration of the show. Beasts’ voice was disarmingly similar to Beast’s voice in the Disney movie production and his costume and posture walked the line between being intimidating and beast-like but stopped short of scaring the little kids. I applaud his ability to so realistically portray the Beast we’ve all come to know and love from the Disney movie. Gaston came in a close second on my list of favorites; his ego, obnoxious personality, fantastic black velour pants and fake chest hair livened up every scene he was in. My daughter adored Gaston’s side kick because she’s entered that age where nothing beats physical comedy. And last but certainly not least, was Belle, played by Emily Behny. Belle’s strong personality, sass and Behny’s beautiful singing voice make her an excellent and totally believable Belle.
The supporting cast in the production is so strong that there were times I wished for more scenes with a fuller stage of the broader cast singing and dancing,
probably because we were completely spoiled by “Be Our Guest.” I wished for a chance to watch that scene on repeat about 10 more times for fear I was missing details, mainly because I was mesmerized by the gold spoons and forks. Not to mention the skill of the dancer inside the dancing carpet – how did he do THAT? During the “Be Our Guest” scene, which nears the end of the first act, is when you are given an artful and beautiful reminder that any musical associated with Disney is going to knock your socks off at least once during the show.
I would be remiss in failing to mention the beautiful music that accompanied the production. As you would expect, the orchestra performed exceptionally all night long and acted as an important part of the cast. This production actually features the animated film’s Academy Award®-winning score with music by Alan Menken and lyrics by the late Howard Ashman, and true Belle fans will quickly notice the additional songs, with music by Alan Menken and lyrics by Tim Rice.
So at this point – you’re wondering- should you go and what is an appropriate age for your kids if you’re going to take them? Yes, you should go, especially if you have a child who deserves a really special night out. Here’s where I differ from the marketing of the show, however, because it is billed as appropriate for ages 3 and up. First, there are several times when a younger child could easily be scared. My daughter’s friend, who just turned 5 last week, was clinging to her mom a few times. My advice for anyone going with younger ones would be to show them the 3 minute video montage in advance so the kids know what to expect with the Beast. My rationale for thinking the youngest I would pay to bring a child – is five years old – is really based on the length of the show. On Tuesday, it started around 7:30pm and ended at 10:15pm. It is a long show with a brief 15 minute intermission. Even a matinée doesn’t change the reality that, at least in my experience, getting a 3 or 4-year-old to sit for almost three hours is near impossible but of course, every kid is different, so I am happy to be challenged on this one. I just know that I wouldn’t bring one of my kids until they are 5.
Tickets for Disney’s Beauty and the Beast begin at $39 (plus applicable service charges) and are currently on sale now through Telecharge only at (800) 447-7400 or online. The show is only here for two weeks – here’s the schedule:
Tuesday, June 12 – Thursday, June 14 at 7:30p
Friday, June 15 at 8:00p
Saturday, June 16 at 2:00p and 8:00p
Sunday, June 17 at 1:00p and 6:30p
Tuesday, June 19 – Thursday, June 21 at 7:30p
Friday, June 22 at 8:00p
Saturday, June 23 at 2:00p and 8:00p
Sunday, June 24 at 1:00p and 6:30p
Before I headed out to the National Theatre on Tuesday, I perused their web site and was reminded that they offer a fabulous and free Saturday morning program for kids. Here’s a link to the Summer 2012 program if you’re looking to fill in a Saturday this summer, especially if it’s a rainy one. In the meantime, enjoy this show while it’s still here. I’d love to be Lumiere’s and Cogsworth’s guest anytime.
Disclosure: I was gifted tickets for the press performance but my opinions here are my own.