‘Beauty and the Beast’ is charming and delightful

 

If you want to laugh, if you want your senses to be drowned in spectacular color and sound, and most all, if you want to feel good, go see “Beauty and the Beast” with or without the kids. This production is more than the telling of the old fairy tale: It is an artistic conception that challenges the imagination and opens doors to ultimate creativity.
The first thought is “Been there done that, but I’ll take the kids anyway and they will enjoy the old story with the happy ending.” Wrong! This show is definitely for both adults and children to enjoy. But it’s more than the animated movie you have played for your kids more times than you would like to remember. This presentation is more than a delight, it is an artistic spectacular as only Disney can produce.
They have taken the delightful animated characters and transferred them from the screen to the stage with an exactness that is unbelievable. From the live talking head of Chip the Boy Teacup (I haven’t figured out how they do this one), to Lumiere, the lovable Maurice Chavellier-type candelabra with lighted candles for hands, to the opera diva turned into a wardrobe.  
There are more special effects available in this production than in “Star Wars”. The show stopping “Be Our Guest” is a glorified, updated Busby Berkley extravaganza that leaves the audience breathless and wondering why they don’t make musicals like this anymore. The “Gaston in the Pub” number with the the precision of Matt West’s choreography with beer mugs is a delicious, refreshing hoot, and the transition of the Beast to the Prince is a stunning revelation.
Bob Roth’s direction is the key. Everything is done tongue-in-cheek and no one takes themselves too seriously.  It works. Children and adults see a fresh spin on an old story and find themselves having a grand time with already familiar characters
Casting is perfection. Logan Denninghoff plays egotistical Gaston to the utmost hilt. The enchanted characters are exact and flawless with Michael Haller’s Lumiere stealing all his scenes. Dane Agostinis is the Beast with amazing and hideous makeup that seems to soften and become almost handsome by the end of the play due to his deft handling of the role. Julia Louise Hosack as Mrs. Potts, the castle cook, is a joy and is a San Jose gal.  Emily Behny is the perfect, spunky, cool Belle that eventually falls in love with the Beast, freeing him from the spell that changed him from a Prince to a Beast and his household staff into household objects. All offer fine voices and well-trained, energetic dancing abilities.
With the book by Linda Woolverton and seven new songs added to the Academy Award-winning score by Alan Menken and the late Howard Ashman, and add six more by Tony and Academy Award winner Tim Rice, a freshness comes through that awakens the senses. Musical director Michael Kosann brings out the best in the enjoyable orchestrations.
The colorful costume design by Ann Hould-Ward, sound design by John Petrafeca Jr., and lighting design by Natasha Katz complete this enchanting production.
I saw the original stage production of “Beauty and the Beast” on Broadway many years ago and found it an exceptional presentation. This presentation holds its own. Go and enjoy. You will not be disappointed.

Where: San Jose Center for the Performing Arts, 255 Almaden Blvd., San Jose
Through: March 11
Details: 866-395-2929 or www.broadwaysanjose.com

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