As mothers of two little girls (and former little girls ourselves) Claudine and I have had a lot of princess experiences over the years but last night's performance of Disney's Beauty and the Beast at the National Theatre was by far one of the best.
The story alone makes Beauty one of my sentimental favorites: oddball girl buries her nose in books, shuns the overbearing machismo of the "It" guy, and finds true love in an unlikely place by following her heart. In addition to a great story and an admirable princess, the original Disney movie introduced us to beloved characters such as Mrs. Potts, Chip, Lumiere, and Cogsworth and an Academy-award winning score including such favorites as Angela Lansbury's "Beauty and the Beast" and "Be Our Guest." The movie version was such a hit that it became the first animated film ever to be nominated for the Best Picture Oscar.
So how does a theatrical production compete with fantastical imagery of the animated version that we all love so well? I assure you, this new production captures all the magic of the movie and then some. An expanded repertoire of songs by Alan Menken and Tim Rice, elaborately layered stage sets, bright swirling costumes, and the excitement of a live stage performance all contributed to specialness of this show - making it well worth the splurge for the entire family. If your children loved the movie, they will love the theatrical production even more.
Directed by Rob Roth (who also directed the Broadway premiere), this new tour brings to life the storybook images of the 18th century tale by evoking scenic images of European wood carvings, quilts, and a gilded manuscripts. From the colorful provincial town to the spooky forest and gilded interiors of the castle, each scene moves the story along with meaningful and clever touches. Especially good tricks were accomplished with the life-sized wolves and little Chip's head floating mysteriously on a tea cart -- our kids are still trying to figure that one out!
With this creative scenery as their back-drop, the cast delivers a terrific performance bringing the beloved characters to life. Emily Behny was pitch-perfect as the lovely young Belle and
and Dane Agostinis was satisfyingly scary and ultimately endearing as the Beast. Other highlights includedMichael Haller's playful Lumiere and Matt Farcher as the wonderfully sneering and pompous Gaston (a character you'll no doubt find eerily similar to someone in your dating past).
Even after a night time show that ended around 10 pm, our daughters were still energized and enthralled by the grand finale in which the entire cast, the reborn prince, and Belle in a gorgeous pink ball gown appear on stage for their final bows and a standing ovation.
As much as our daughter's loved this show its not just for kids. If you love the fun of a good musical and a tear-jerking romance (and I do!), this show will grab you whatever your age. In fact, much of the audience were adults and we all had a wonderful time with the Moulin Rouge inspired can-can dances, Mars vs. Venus moments between Beauty and her suitors, and the bawdy humor of Lumiere and the flirty Babette (all of which sailed innocently over the heads of our little ones). Combine that with the ready availability of adult refreshments at the bar, the comfortable and convenient downtown venue, and you've got a night that will please everyone.
We added to the enjoyment of the evening by taking advantage of nearby valet parking, imbibing pre-show drinks in the W Hotel lobby, and strolling around Freedom Plaza to take in views of the Capitol. Since our girls had gone to the trouble of dressing to the nines in their latest princess garb, we also squeezed in a mini-photo session in the lavish interior of the Willard on our way back to the car. All in all it was a magical evening fit for princesses young and old alike!
Disney's Beauty and the Beast is playing at the National Theatre for only two weeks (June 12-24, 2012) and is recommended for ages 3 and up. Everyone must have a ticket. Running time: 2 hours and 30 minutes, including intermission. Refreshments are available in the lobby. The National Theatre is located at 1321 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W., Washington, DC, 20004. Phone: 202.628.6161. Public parking is available in the blocks around the theatre. For more information please visit nationaltheatre.org
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