There’s no doubt that Disney’s Beauty and the Beast is a show audiences have loved. It had 5,461 performances over 13 years, making it the eighth longest-running show in Broadway history. Based on the animated film with great musical numbers and done right, it’s a surefire crowd-pleaser. That’s pretty much what’s landed onstage at the Aronoff for a two-week run, with a young cast that’s full of enthusiasm.
The evening’s highlight is the zany, over-the-top dance number “Be Our Guest,” replete with Busby Berkley choreography, confetti cannons, dancing plates and flatware. The number is a no-fail jolt of entertainment that builds and builds, and its rendition at the Aronoff lives up to that tradition. It made up for the rest of the first act, which on opening night managed to swamp many voices with booming musical accompaniment, a frequent problem at the Aronoff. The balance did improve after intermission.
The energetic non-Equity performers lack experience, and it shows in the leading roles which require more finesse and depth. Dane Agostinis falls prey to mugging as the Beast, too often going for cheap laughs. Emily Behny’s Belle, while vocally strong, lacks the genuine, caring warmth that the role needs. Logan Denninghoff is fine as the preening, self-centered Gaston, but other young performers playing characters at the Beast’s castle don’t bring much panache to the more mature comic roles of Lumière (the candlestick), Cogsworth (the clock) and others.
The show’s memorable illusions and effects are intact, but this tour feels pared down and lacking in texture. There’s less emphasis on the rose’s falling petals, and the subplot with Gaston pursuing Bells feels detached. Sets change swiftly, but usually don’t dazzle. Nonetheless, the story is intact and enacted with lots of zeal, and I suspect most audiences — especially families bringing children — will come away satisfied.
DISNEY’S BEAUTY AND THE BEAST , presented by Broadway Across America, continues through Oct. 9. Buy tickets, check out performance times and get venue details here.