Disney's Beauty and the Beast in Macau: superbly sung but staging confused
Anyone who has seen Jean Cocteau’s 1946 screen adaptation of Beauty and the Beast by French novelist Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont will remember how eerie, dark and scary the original 18th century Gothic fairy tale is.
This Broadway musical, however, is based on the much more cheery and wide-eyed Disney animated version released in 1991. The stage production, which ran between 1994 and 2007, is now on an international tour, and is at the Venetian Macao until the end of July.
Loosely based on Leprince de Beaumont’s novel, this all-singing, all-dancing version tells the story of Belle who, in order to save her father, is imprisoned by the Beast who, in turn, is trapped by a spell. If the Beast can learn how to love and be loved, the curse will be lifted and he (a young prince) – together with his servants in the castle – will turn back into humans. There is also a subplot that revolves around the narcissistic Gaston, who tries to win the bookish Belle over.
The singing in this show is superb. Hilary Maiberger’s vocal is clear and lyrical, and there is much warmth to her voice that endears and engages the audience. Likewise Darick Pead, whose singing is full of emotion; his Beast (unlike Phantom in The Phantom of the Opera) never comes across as cruel or threatening.
The supporting cast match each other in terms of stage presence and personality. Emily Mattheson is the motherly and sympathetic Mrs Potts, whose rendition of the title theme song is the high point of the show; Hassan Nazari-Robati and James May (as Lumiere and Cogsworth) are a fun double act, as are Adam Dietlein and Jordan Aragon (as Gaston and Lefou).
The choreography is in the style of old-school Hollywood musicals but doesn’t look too dated. And the set, given this is a touring production, errs on the side of being small and efficient.
Despite the strong and solid performances from the cast, there is something missing in this production (so far) and it could be that it needs a few more tech runs. The climatic scene in which Beast turns back into a prince was so dark and confusing (behind a large veil) that it lacked surprise, impact and magic. More tweaks in the coming weeks may help lift this charming show off the ground.
Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, The Venetian Theatre. Until July 26. Reviewed: June 13