On Tuesday night, Ariel, Rachel, and I went to see Beauty and the Beast at the Kravis Center.
Since I missed Idina Menzel when she came to West Palm, I’d really been looking forward to this show for my Broadway musical fix. However, after seeing the show, I’m still not sure if it was a musical or a slapstick hullabaloo set to music. I’d seen the West End production of Beauty and the Beast, but that was about ten years ago and all I remember about that show is that Belle was black and Philippe, the horse, was absent. Considering this, I wasn’t sure what to expect from this production. Actually, I had very little expectations. As long as “Be Our Guest” was done with flair and pizzazz, I would be content.
It all went wrong so quickly.
I got out of work around 6:00 and the show was set to start at 7:30. Since my office is about five minutes from the Kravis, I figured I would have plenty of time to eat dinner and unwind. This was not so. Rachel had learned that there would be a discussion covering the inception, development, and production of the show at 6:15. She decided that we should go to it. She probably thought that the discussion would get us pumped up for the show and really enhance our appreciation of it.
If only that had happened.
The talk was engaging and full of
useless fun information. Did you know that the Beast’s costume is made of real and synthetic hair? Did you know that it takes the Beast about 90 minutes to get into costume? Did you know that the pyrotechnic device used in Lumiere’s candelabra costume took over a year to develop?
Neither did I. At the end of her talk, the speaker asked us if we had any questions. One little girl in the front row raised her hand nervously and asked, “How does the Beast change into the Prince at the end?” That was a really good question. How are they going to remove all of those prosthetics and hair? How is he going to go from being a massive beast to a proportional human being? I looked at the speaker, anxiously awaiting her reply, but she only smiled coyly and said, “You’ll just have to wait and see.”
I nearly squealed in delight and anticipation.
The talk concluded and the three of us fully decked out in dresses and big girl shoes walked back to the main theatre. I was ready to chew my arm off for sustenance I was so hungry, when I discovered that there was cafe located on the second floor. When I say “cafe” I really mean “thoroughly overpriced watering hole.” $8.50 later I sat down at a table with my chips, free tepid water, and what can only be called a sandwich starter kit.
I refuse to call that a sandwich.
I’m from NY; I know what a sandwich looks like.
Trying to eat and savor my sandwich starter kit only made me angry so I swallowed it in one bite and shared my chips with my cousins. Pretty soon, it was 7:20 and we went to find our seats. My anger soon dissipated when I noticed that we had really good seats. We were sitting Orchestra about 10 rows from the stage. This immediately put me a better mood.
These seats were infinitely better than the ones Rachel and I had when we saw My Fair Lady at the Kravis. Yes, we were sitting front row, but when you sit front row at the Kravis be prepared to become well acquainted with your knees because they will be sitting in your lap the entire evening. You will also be fearful of an actor falling into your already occupied lap because they get really close to the edge of the stage.
Sitting down with ample leg room and the promise of fire and transfiguration, I was anxious for the show to start. After what seemed like an eternity, the lights dimmed and the overture began. The ever familiar score took me to a place I can’t ever describe to you. When the selfish and unkind Prince came out on stage, I prepared myself to see the Old woman/ Enchantress come and turn him into a hideous beast.
The Old woman/ Enchantress soon followed the Prince and my first thought was, ‘hmm, she seems a little small.’
When the Prince dismissed her I thought, ‘That actress had got an oddly shaped head.’
Then she told him that beauty lies within. I thought, ‘Ok, get ready for the transformation.’
The Prince dismissed her again. I thought, ‘This sucka ain’t gon’ know what hit him. Enchantress time.’
Then the lights went out.
When the lights came back on, the Enchantress was well-lit enough for me to realize that she was a 12ft tall puppet. I was so
betrayed engrossed by her that I completely missed the Prince’s transformation into the Beast. Act I was effectively ruined. However, I didn’t let my spirits stay down for long. I bucked up and remembered that I still had “Be Our Guest” and the Finale to look forward to.
The crisis was adverted, but my opinion of the show was gradually sinking.
I hadn’t gotten yet gotten to see the Beast in all his glory, but the Enchanted house staff gave me hope. Cogsworth looked like a clock, Lumiere a candelabra, Mrs. Potts like fine English China, and even though Chip was a disembodied head on a tea cart, I was still pleased with the look of the costumes. But I still needed to see the Beast.
From the time I first saw Beauty and the Beast, the Beast has been one of my favorite characters of all time. He’s the only Disney prince with soul. Prince Charming is suave, Prince Philip is courageous, and Prince Eric can thrown down, but the Beast is the perfect man. Beast? Man? Conscious being? He has weaknesses and doubts. He’s a flawed character who we get to see develop and grow throughout the course of the movie.
This is why I was so anxious to see him.
This is why I was so disappointed when I did.
We finally got to the scene where Belle finds Maurice in the dungeon and begs the Beast to take her instead. He agrees on the condition that she has to stay there forever. Finally, she utters the famous line, “Come into the light.”
The music began to swell.
I moved closer to the edge of my seat.
The Beast moved slowly towards the small patch of light on the stage.
A foot slid into the light.
The anticipation was too great and my heart felt like it might explode.
The Beast was coming into full view!
And apparently he left the rest of his costume backstage.
I was expecting something close to the movie. I was expecting a tall, imposing, beastly form. What I got was a manorexic actor covered in shag carpet. With all that talk about prosthetics and make-up you think they could have made up this guy to look like the Beast. Yes, they had nifty sound effects to make him growl and roar, but it really looked like a chihuahua lip synching to a Irish wolf hound’s bark. Yes, the actor had a voice that shook the rafters, but he was very into making grand sweeping arm movements during songs which only emphasized his frail and sickly build.
I was not amused.
The wolves that chased Belle through the woods after she ran away were bigger than the Beast.
They were also puppets.
That just shouldn’t happen.
The show managed to put me in a good mood again by having a rousing Stomp! type dance break during “Gaston” using beer flagons. I’m all about interesting choreography. The number also took my attention off Gaston’s pants which looked like velour and I don’t think they had velour in France in the 1700’s.
“Be Our Guest” finally arrived and it was everything I could have dreamed off. Scantily clad chorus girls pretended to be plates and forks in a kickline. Fully dressed chorus boys sautéed (get it?) their way into my heart as Belle stood awestruck stage left. I understood where she was coming from. It was dazzling. It was a spectacular spectacle. My heart was somewhat softened towards the production as streamers flew out into the audience.
‘This is going to get better,’ I thought. ‘Everything’s going to be fine. Act I is over and before you know it Gaston will be plummeting to his death and the Beast will be transforming into the Prince. It’ll be a happily ever after afterall.’
Having comforted myself I was blissfully unaware of all the other flaws in the show. They were many and quite pronounced, so much so that my cousin companions laughed out loud at several points. I was impervious to these. The finale was going to come and make right every injustice that I had paid $60 to have committed against me. Chip’s shrill and annoying voice would soon be a thing of the past. I would easily forget LeFou’s unconvincing portrayal of a human. (I’m still convinced he was some sort of sprite. He had too much vim and vigor.) Maurice’s inability to commit to the scene would fade in my memory and all I would be left with would be the Beast’s grandiose transformation.
Although the people around me most definitely judged me for it, I couldn’t help but bounce excitedly in my seat when the Beast was violently stabbed to death on the balcony.
‘Yes! Yes, yes, yes!’ I thought. ‘This is it! This is what I waited two hours for! It’ll all be worth it! Yes! Yes, praise the Lord!’
Belle sobbed and weeped into the Beast’s concave chest and whispered a tender and heartfelt, “I love you.”
And then the strobe light started flashing completely blinding the audience for the Beast’s entire transformation.
Here is a PG-13 version of what I said:
“(Beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep)! You got to be (beep) (beep) (be-beep)! Of all the (beep) and (beep)(beep) in all (beep)! They have got to be (beep)! (Beeeeeeeeeeep) (be-beep) (beep) (beep) (beep) (beep) (be-beep) (beeeeeeep) piss monkey rabbit! (Beeeeeep) (beep)(beep) (be-beep) (beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep) shoes!”
I like to keep a clean blog which is why I shall never tell you what I said.
Suffice it to say a sailor on leave would have blushed to hear such a tirade.
Having been thoroughly disappointed for the evening, I slumped back to my car in my big girl shoes, nearly ran over an octegenarian exiting the parking garage (Ethel had it comin!), and grumbled to myself the 45 minutes to get home. I slept poorly, woke up in a funk, and dragged myself to work. As I was sitting at my sad little desk, thinking about how Disney let me down, I realized something: I own Beauty and the Beast (diamond edition) on Blu-ray.
Ok House of Mouse. I’ll let you get away this time.
But next time I’m letting my inner hood rat out and she is gonna mess you up.