A dazzling stage musical that will enchant your entire family!
Disney’s Beauty and the Beast (May 31 – June 5; All ages)
TPAC’s Jackson Hall
505 Deaderick St., Nashville
615-782-4040 • tpac.org
Show times: Tue – Thu 7:30 p.m., Fri 8 p.m., Sat 2 and 8 p.m., Sun 1 and 6:30 p.m.
Tickets: $35 – $85
Disney magic is as entertaining as ever with NETworks’ national tour of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast on TPAC’s Jackson Hall stage this week. It’s one of the few non-equity productions that’s packed with equity-caliber pizzazz from an engaging, highly talented cast and a lively orchestra to vibrant set design and exquisite costumes. That’s Disney for you — it never disappoints, and it delightfully dazzles boys and girls of all ages from start to finish.
Aside from the original Broadway production (which ran from 1994 – 2007; it garnered nine Tony Award nominations winning one for Best Costume Design), this is by far the best installment of Beauty and The Beast I’ve seen. Much of that is thanks to the multi-talented cast members who bring their characters to life in a bold, captivating way.
There’s no doubt Sam Hartley was born to play the leading role of Beast. This is the 27-year-old Lincoln, Neb., native’s first national tour, and he delivers an unparalleled version of the character by giving Beast a succinct youthful innocence that relates to kids and adults. From throwing a face-down-on-the-floor temper tantrum when being told “no” for the first time in his life to the childlike charm of being captivated by a great book to the shyness of hoping a romantic interest is indeed shared, Hartley is adept at giving Beast an emotional transformation that’s believable and endearing. The amount of body language Hartley puts forth in order to allow Beast to communicate — given the heavy costume — is impressive. He makes the character come to life in new ways that add a lot of depth throughout the story, and he wonderfully wraps up Act I showcasing his strong baritone vocals with Beast’s signature song, “If I Can’t Love Her.”
Brooke Quintana’s portrayal as Belle (the Beauty) is equally delightful. She and Hartley enjoy an electric chemistry on stage, and her dynamic singing prowess shines all throughout the musical, with nods to “Home” and “A Change in Me.” Quintana has the perfect look for Belle, but more importantly in a show with a theme of “it’s what’s on the inside that counts,” the skilled actress nails every aspect of Belle’s inner beauty, bravery and fortitude. From the manner in which she stands up to Beast when he bullies her to opening her heart to see beyond his monstrous exterior to find compassion — and eventually love — for him, Quintana’s performance beautifully inspires viewers to look beyond outside appearances to find the underlying heart in everyone.
Together, Hartley and Quintana offer a fantastic journey into one of the fairy tale world’s most treasured love stories, and whether you’re 2 or 102, there’s just something magical about seeing Belle in that ornate yellow ball gown dancing with Beast in Act II during the show’s title number elegantly sung by Stephanie Gray (Mrs. Potts).
The show’s supporting cast members each give strong, memorable performances that are exciting and fun to experience. Christiaan Smith-Kotlarek’s dashing portrayal of egotistical, narcissistic Gaston bring much humor to the story’s antagonist, and the show’s “Gaston” mug-clinking musical number is one of the best examples of Matt West’s tight choreography.
Beauty and The Beast’s enchanted characters bring a world of color and charisma to the stage, including the aforementioned Stephanie Gray (Mrs. Potts), Samuel Shurleff (Cogsworth), Ryan N. Phillips (Lumiere), Melissa Jones (Babette) and Stephanie Harter Gilmore (Madame de la Grande Bouche) and Jake Jones (Chip). Speaking of Chip, it’s always fun to see kids on stage in professional productions; Deandre Horner alternates the role with Jones on this tour.
While there are many memorable musical moments of the unforgettable score (music by Alan Menken; lyrics by Tim Rice and Howard Ashman), two favorites include the hopeful, joyous “Human Again” by the enchanted characters and Beauty’s signature tune, “Be Our Guest.” The latter delivers much color and energy, including an impeccable array of excitement by Mike Baskowski as the back-flipping Carpet.
Beauty and The Beast is a mesmerizing theatrical outing your family will want to experience. It certainly serves as the perfect introduction to live theater for kids.