With the revival of one of their most popular musicals, Vancouver’s Arts Club is once again inviting audiences of all ages to relax, and pull up a chair, as these talented actors present— Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.
“Be our guest! Be our guest!
Put our service to the test…”
You know the rest. Yes, this is more or less the beloved 1991 animated film live and on stage. Disney’s Beauty and the Beast is playing now until January 6 at the Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage.
You can probably hum most of the songs and, unless you’ve been in an enchanted slumber for the better part of the last two decades, you’ll be familiar with the story. A selfish prince is cursed by a witch and transformed into a beast with warthog tusks and bad table manners. The prince’s servants are slowly turning into inanimate household objects. There is an amorous candlestick and a tightly wound grandfather clock. There are high-kicking dancing plates. It’s really best not to overthink it.
Originally a Broadway production, Disney’s Beauty and the Beast revels in spectacle, song, and lavish costumes. It retains the Academy Award winning music of the original animation—including the delirious, nearly hallucinatory “Be Our Guest”.
The production also adds a few smaller numbers. These mostly expand on the motivations of the characters—such as Belle reflecting on her imprisonment in “Home” and Gaston revealing the extent of his ego in “Me”—without digging any deeper into the inherent weirdness of the core story. Unpacking the troubling power dynamics, mythic underpinnings, and psychology of this old tale could keep a team of psychoanalysts occupied for many years. Again, it’s easier to just sit back and enjoy the song and dance.
Michelle Bardach as Belle has a lovely voice and captures the character’s demeanour: thoughtful, pretty, and pleasant—a classic Disney princess. Jonathan Winsby as the Beast prowls about with an explosive temper. Later, he becomes fretful and endearingly over-eager as he courts Belle. The pair’s budding romance is, perhaps, a bit rushed as it is in the original movie, but it is pushed along with the help of the song “Something There”.
“She glanced this way
I thought I saw
And when we touched she didn’t shudder at my paw”
It’s familiar magic, but magic all the same. Framing this central love story is a strong cast of supporting actors including the delightful trio of Mrs. Potts (Susan Anderson), Lumiere (Graham Coffeng), and Cogsworth (Shawn Macdonald). These three spend a fair bit of time plotting and playing at matchmaker in corridors, trying to halt their slow transformation into household objects. There is plenty of comedy to be had between the warmth of Mrs. Potts, Lumiere’s libidinous eyebrows and candlestick hands, and Cogsworth’s anxiety. If Disney ever decided to create a heist movie starring these three, I’d be all for it.
The physical comedy will delight younger theatregoers and there are enough witty lines to keep the adults in the audience not just awake, but laughing along. Here, Kaymar Pazandeh as Gaston deserves special mention. He struts around, a peacock in hunting boots. He is continually flexing at least one part of his body, often with his lackey, LeFou (Ali Watson), hanging off his bulging biceps. He’s boarish, oafish, and just great.
“No one’s slick as Gaston
No one’s quick as Gaston
No one’s neck’s as incredibly thick as Gaston”
When Disney’s Beauty and the Beast first premiered on Broadway on April 18, 1994, many critics dismissed it as dinner theatre. As David Richards wrote for The New York Times: “…it is hardly a triumph of art, but it’ll probably be a whale of a tourist attraction.”
Despite an unfavourable early reception on Broadway, Disney’s Beauty and the Beast has proven to be popular with audiences and especially with children and families. It doesn’t reinvent much, but it is good fun.
This production of the Arts Club brings it home with beautiful sets, excellent live music, and a talented cast. This show will undoubtedly be a hit with families this holiday season. Take your kids, friends, or partner and have a great time—you’ll be humming the music for weeks to come.
“Tale as old as time…”