Disney's Beauty and the Beast Returns to Segerstrom Center for the Arts!

The classic Disney animated film turned Broadway sensation has returned to Segerstrom Center for the Arts!  DISNEY’S BEAUTY AND THE BEAST is a tale we all know, a tale as old time, and a story we have all fallen in love with. The essence is still there with the outlandish characters, sets and music mostly returning. Your favorite musical numbers and incredible effects remain along with the whimsy you have come to expect.  Grab the kids and the young at heart quick to see this memorable tale before it’s too late.  DISNEY’S BEAUTY AND THE BEAST is only playing till Sunday, January 19th!

Have you seen this show before? Well, if it was prior to 2010 you may notice quite a few changes.  This production is put on by NETworks who has been producing popular musicals since 1995. They know what they are doing, but this production of DISNEY’S BEAUTY AND THE BEAST is scaled down just a tad from the original Off-Broadway production that ran for many years.

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The songs we all know remain and you will not be disappointed by the vocal performances of most.  Belle is played by the charming Hilary Maiberger from Yucaipa, CA.  Her credits are vast, but probably most notably for this performance is Aladdin: The Musical Spectacular from Disney California Adventure where she played Jasmine. The vocals here are quite similar to the music from Aladdin and in fact the song “Home” from BEAUTY AND THE BEAST has very similar crescendos and theme to “To Be Free” from Aladdin. It’s still beautiful and Maiberger does very well with it, but it’s definitely worth mentioning to get an idea of her performance. They are both after all written by legendary Disney composer Alan Menken.

There are some highlights in the music that makes this musical not only unique from the film, but keeps it a fun and upbeat show the audience is probably looking for.  “Be Our Guest” is epic and creative starting with a different comical representation to the beginning from Lumiere.  The Beasts main song “I Can’t Love Her” finishes the first act nicely as Darick Pead leads it on the balcony, even though set design here is scaled back from previous versions.

Apparently, gone are two musical numbers that were created for the Broadway show as well as some of the elaborate sets.  Thankfully the fun and large number “Human Again” returns that you may have seen on later editions of the film.  It has been quite a few years since I saw the previous production, but I do remember some intricate backgrounds that were more realistic than sparse and abstract.  There were some very memorable moments from previous years that won’t exist due to artistic representations of what the scene is, more or less conveying the feeling of the setting rather than actually immersing the audience in that world.

Don’t let this scare you away, however, as all the scenes are still incredibly beautiful and lavish.  As the musical continues into the tavern for Gaston’s big number, you may miss the larger ensemble and larger interior of the cartoonish pub, but they still hit their mark on comedy and fun.  “Gaston” keeps its exciting mug number that will surly delight everyone.

The show has a lot of comedic elements to it, but trying to possibly over compensate for not actually being animated, many of these moments seem over-the-top and childish.  In this case I feel that less could have been more. Not less comedy, but less outlandish characterization.  Gaston played by Tim Rogan has some of the best laughs except at moments I felt he based his character after Jim Carey’s The Mask or Ace Ventura.  His silly sidekick Lefou, Jordan Aragon, is clearly a master at slapstick but the production had too many knockdowns and falls that became tired.  He is still short, but skinny opposed to the character in the film. It doesn’t take anything away from the character though.  His timing was impeccable and he did everything I think he could have done with the direction he was given.

There are others that just seemed to miss the mark for me or appeared to be trying too hard.  Madame de la Grande Bouche the “wardrobe” played by Roxy York, a Boston native, definitely had her moments but clearly was trying to take the show away, but sadly failed.  There are few of these moments where they took one joke and ran with it too far. I am not quite sure if it was truly because of the actor or because of the material given.

This brings me to Lumiere played by Hassan Nazari-Robati who put forth the effort, but lost me when his French accent was more dark and raspy than suave and sexy.  There is still a great dynamic with Clogsworth, Lumiere, and quite risqué Babette at least.  Mrs. Potts, Kristin Stewart, luckily captured the motherly charm of the character in the film and really added to this production whereas Belle’s father seemed like a completely different character to me except for the fact he was an odd inventor.

Thankfully the songs should still be enjoyed, the Beasts transformation is still magical, and the story still follows the progression you would expect. Each act plays well and there are laughs for everyone. The children in the audience all appeared to be sitting up straight and completely engaged.  If you are already a fan of the show, you are still going to get the essence of you want from BEAUTY AND THE BEAST. If you have not seen the original production, then even better!

This a light-hearted, silly and fun show that still plays well with today’s audience. Belle sung beautifully and Beast was witty and silly, but perhaps just a little too much.  Gaston and Lefou play well to the audience and the enchanted inanimate objects are all there. You’ll surely fall in love with the sights and sounds, but you can expect a little different characterization that may get a little carried away. DISNEY’S BEAUTY AND THE BEAST is a show created to bring entertainment, joy, and laughter to children and adults.  NETworks production still delivers that show!

NETworks Presents DISNEY’S BEAUTY AND THE BEAST is now playing at Segerstrom Center for the Arts – Segerstrom Hall

January 14th – 19th, 2014
Tuesday – Friday at 7:30 p.m.
Saturday at 2 and 7:30 p.m.
Sunday at 1 and 6:30 p.m.

The 2 p.m. performance on Saturday, January 18th will include audio description, open captioning and sign-language interpretation.

Tickets start at $29

For more information visit scfta.org

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Joel Covey
Joel has been writing for SoCalThrills for the past decade covering entertainment, events, and theater since joining the site. He is a CSUF alum, studying within the Communication and Radio / TV / Film colleges.