Saturday, March 19, 2005

Beauty And The Beast - Carousel Dinner Theater

'BEAUTY AND THE BEAST' at CAROUSEL more beauty than beast, but...

'DISNEY'S BEAUTY AND THE BEAST,' which is now on stage at Carousel Dinner Theatre, tells a "tale as old as time." It was originally conceived as a story in 1740. It was a tedious, dark and scary tale which in 1756 was later transformed into the popular version. In 1992 Disney released a version of the story which became the first animated feature to be nominated for the Academy Award's Best Picture. (It lost to 'THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS.') In 1994 Disney transformed the script into an award winning Broadway musical which is now the sixth longest-running show in Broadway history. The show has been in presented in15 countries and in translated into 7 languages. It is estimated that over 24 million people have seen the live version of the show.

The story concerns a prince who, because he has no love in his heart, is transformed into a hideous beast by an enchantress. To break the spell, the Beast must learn to love another and earn their love in return. If not, he will be doomed to remain a beast for all time.

Of course, as in all fairy tales there has to be a happy ending, so enter Belle, a beautiful young woman who lives with her eccentric father in a small town near the Beast's castle. Belle longs for a life of adventure like those that she reads of in her books. Her father gets lost in the woods and wanders into the Beast's castle, where he is imprisoned. Upon finding her father in the Beast's clutches, Belle offers herself to the Beast in return for the release of her father. And...well, you can guess the rest. Yes, the Beast learns kindness and love, it is reciprocated by Belle, and we all go out of the theatre singing the likes of "If I Can't Love Her," "A Change in Me," "Be Our Guest," and the title song, "Beauty and the Beast."

Carousel's production, under the direction of Marc Robin, has some shining moments, but fails to create the potential magic of the show. Part of the problem lies with Robin's direction. As in Carousel's 'CATS,' early in this season, he fails to imbue in some of his cast members the necessity to "be" the characters they portray instead of feigning the characterizations. He also paces the show in a meandering pattern. It lacks vitality. His choreography also fails to light up the stage.

The show lacks polish. This may be because, as one member of the cast indicated, "We only had five days of rehearsal before we opened." He said this in wonderment that the production was able to get staged in such a short period of time. I would hope as the production runs, it might meld better.

Another factor in the lack of sparkle is the restriction placed on Carousel by Disney and Music Theatre International, which own the rights to the show. The theatre is not permitted to copy the original Broadway or animated feature designs. Because of this the images which audience members are used to are missing. As good as Dale DiBernardo's costume designs are, there is a visual element missing. Robert Kovach's set designs don't help the matter. They tend to lack creativity and sometimes cause staging problems.

The performance qualities vary greatly. Julia Krohn is a charming Belle. Even though she was sick on reviewer night, her voice still was excellent. She light up the stage. Curt Dale Clark sings the role of the Beast well, though in the early scenes his Beast was not menacing enough.

James Patterson is delightful as Lumiere, the candlesticks. The fact that he has played the role on Broadway and in the touring company shows. John Reeger is wonderful as Cogsworth, the clock, as is Paula Scrofano as Mrs. Potts. Another performance highlight is that of Benjamin Brooks Cohen as the much maligned, punched and tossed LeFou though he often slips into a characture rather than being the character. By overdoing the slapstick he draws away from the delight and we laugh at him rather than with him. As the dresser, Arlene Robertson is delightful.

On the other hand, Matt Stokes feigns the role of Gaston, Belle's boorish muscle-bound suitor. He, of bad wig, is all shticks and gimmicks and no characterization. He dances poorly and his lines lack believability.

The dancing, with few exceptions, is weak. There were times when it actually looked like they were counting their steps. The male chorus lacked the necessary vocal dynamics.Capsule Judgment Carousel's 'BEAUTY AND THE BEAST' isn't a bad show, it just lacks polish, dynamism and the special quality that makes the movie and Broadway productions so wonderful.