Sunday September 24th 2017

“Disney’s Beauty and the Beast”

It is hard to believe that “Beauty and the Beast” the musical based on the Disney classic is 15 years old. But it is, and the award winning music by Alan Menken and lyrics by Howard Ashman still brings strong emotions to theater audiences both young and old. The tour that just opened at Oriental Theatre ( aka Ford Center For Performing Arts) is what is known as a  “Truck and bus tour”, a little less glitzy than the original Broadway  production or even those previous productions that have been presented in the Broadway In Chicago series over the years. The orchestra, conducted by Carolyn Viola is is made up of  6 local musicians and 4 who are part of the company but they have through the miracle of electrons ( programmed by Jeff Marder) the sound of a full orchestra. While the sets are very close to that of the original, remember that this entire set has to be placed on a truck so it is just a little flimsier and at a few points scary to watch.

The story however is a classic and it is told well by an energetic cast withsome fine voices. The story, for those of you unfamiliar with it is about a young prince who due to hisself centered manner is placed under a spell. The spell changes him from a handsome Prince to a beats and all of his household members become items. The spell can only be broken if he changes his ways and finds a woman to fall in love with him , as he does with her. But all of this must take place before the last petal of a rose falls off the stem. The Beast is played by Dane Agostinis. He is fierce and powerful and yet when the transformation takes place, we beginto care for him, as does Belle ( deftly handled by Emily Behny, who has a lovely voice to go along with her beauty) the young maiden from town who ends up staying in his castle to save her father ( Christopher Spencer). Meanwhile, the town braggart, strong man Gaston ( a strong character portrayed by Logan Denninghoff, who while not as large in size as we are used to seeing ,is large in talent and makes this cartoon character come to life) has decided that he will marry Belle. Of course, she will have no part of it, while any other maiden in town would leap at the proposal. Gaston’s right hand man,Lefou ( a very acrobatic  Andrew Kruep) handles most o fthe comic relief in this show which is bright and funnyand yet has its dark moments as well. Surprisingly most of the younger people in the audience appeared to handle this without cries or screams ( although with act one being 1 1/2 hours, it is possible th elittle ones were sound asleep. NOTE; When I took my twin granddaughters to this show about 11 years ago, one slept through the first act an dthe other through the second act, so between the two of them, they saw the entire show and being there tonight brought back that memory- ah, the beauty of live theater!

The music is what makes this entertainment so special- “Beauty and The Beast” ( nicely done by Mrs. Potts(Julia Louise Hosack),, “Gaston”,, “How Long Can This Go On”, “Something There”, “If I Can’t Love Her” and of course the marvelous production number “Be Our Guest” ( handled to perfection by Lumiere ( Michael Haller), Mrs. Potts, and the enchanted objects ensemble. A splendid job by other objects, Cogsworth  ( Benjamin Lovell, who had just the right touch) and Babette ( the adorable Erin Elizabeth Coors) as well as Jen Becher as madame de la Grande Bouche. I am pretty sure that young Chip was played by Noah Jones ( as cute as a button, but if I am in error, it would have been Sebastian Hedges Thomas, who I’m sure is just as adorale).

While this is not as spectacular a production as that on Broadway or on earlier tours ( or even our own Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire’s) this is a production that is worth seeing. This is pure family theater and to make sure that families can truly enjoy the experience together the producers along with Broadway in Chicago have priced the tickets for as little as $18 and even the highest priced seats are only $85.

The production will continue at The Ford Center for Performing Arts,Oriental Theatre located at 24 W. Randolph Street through  August 7th  with performances as follows:

Wednesdays  2 and 7:30 p.m.,Thursdays at 7:30 p.m.,Fridays at 8 p.m.,Saturdays at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sundays at 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.

To purchase your tickets visit any of the Broadway in Chicago Theater box offices, call the Broadway In Chicago Ticketline 800-775-2000, visit any Ticketmaster outlet or online visit www.BroadwayInChicago.com

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