A top-notch national tour of Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast,” the recipient of nine 1994 Tony Award nominations including Best Musical, has arrived at the Schuster Center as part of the Victoria Theatre Association’s Premier Health Broadway Series.
Based on the beloved 1991 Academy Award-winning film, one of the best animated movies containing one of the best cinematic scores courtesy of Alan Menken and Howard Ashman, “Beauty and the Beast” wholeheartedly succeeds on the wonderfully relatable portrayals of Hilary Maiberger as bookworm Belle and Darick Pead as the troubled Beast. Maiberger, a lovely soprano and radiant stage presence, earnestly conveys Belle’s life-affirming journey of hope, loss and romance with a thoroughly engaging, gently contemporary sensibility. Astutely interpreting Belle’s introverted persona and the particularly deep hurt she feels upon imprisonment reiterated in the marvelous ballad “Home,” her performance beautifully evolves with striking resiliency and tenderness. At the same rate, Pead is an equally magnetic component displaying a humorously gruff temperament that exceptionally dissolves as the Beast learns to love and desires to be loved in order to break an enchantress’ spell. Pead injects some of the finest comedic bits I’ve seen in the role (the Beast’s pre-dinner hissy fit is inspired), but also supplies great vulnerability, especially in the touching Act 1 finale “If I Can’t Love Her.”
Maiberger and Pead are so incredibly compatible you’ll likely find yourself wiping away a few tears when the gorgeous title tune, warmly sung by Kristen Stewart (Mrs. Potts), brings Belle and the Beast together for an elegant dinner and heart-tugging waltz solidifying their unexpected bond.
Elsewhere, and in addition to Stewart, enjoyable supporting portrayals are rendered by Tim Rogan (Gaston), Jordan Aragon (LeFou), Josh Feldman and Jack Mullen (Chip), James May (Cogsworth), Stephanie Moskal (Babette), Hassan Nazari-Robati (Lumiere), Roxy York (Madame de la Grande Bouche), Paul Crane (Maurice), Kieron Cindric (Monsieur D’Arque), and Tony D’Alelio (Carpet). Nazari-Robati in particular winningly leads the exuberantly show-stopping “Be Our Guest” and joyously spine-tingling “Human Again,” two numbers sprightly choreographed by Matt West who also brings colorful, character-conscious flourishes to “Belle” and “Gaston.”
Director Rob Roth, Tony-nominated for his original direction, effortlessly and breezily returns to the material with a complete understanding of the tone and charm of the story and its relationships. He also wisely reassess his original outlook by cutting 10 minutes that used to belong to “No Matter What” and “Maison des Lunes,” new songs Menken wrote with lyricist Tim Rice that didn’t advance the plot. Roth’s splendid creative team includes Tony-winning costumer Ann Hould-Ward, Tony-winning lighting designer Natasha Katz, scenic designer Stanley A. Meyer, sound designer John Petrafesa, Jr., hair designer David H. Lawrence, fight designer Rick Sordelt, puppet designer Basil Twist, and illusion designer Jim Steinmeyer. Music director Kevin Frances Finn conducts a solid, well-balanced orchestra.
If feel-good entertainment is your aim don’t miss “Beauty and the Beast.”
Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” continues through June 1 at the Schuster Center, Second and Main Streets, Dayton. Performances are today and Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 and 7:30 p.m. Act One: 80 minutes; Act Two: 50 minutes. Tickets are $40-$111. For tickets or more information, call Ticket Center Stage at (937) 228-3630 or visit www.ticketcenterstage.com.