Thursday, October 18, 2012

Disney's Beauty and the Beast: I Give Up on This Hunk of Junk

Disney’s Beauty and the Beast (directed by Rob Roth) matched my expectations perfectly. It was very Disney; colorful, predictable, cheesy, misogynistic, and boring.

As far as Disney cartoons, I grew up with Mulan and The Lion King. I’ve never been familiar with classic Beauty and the Beast, and I’m relieved. On October 16th at the Orpheum, I discovered it was unsurprisingly easy to tell where it was going. Now that I’ve watched the whole thing, I don’t feel like watching it again, as a movie or a musical. Ever. How would I have turned out if beautiful, center-of-attention, malleable Belle was one of my childhood idols instead of Mulan? The thought makes me shiver.

While Disney’s The Lion King was adapted beautifully for the stage, this looked like a cartoon dropped into a theatre. The characters mostly matched what they looked like in the movie, which I suppose could be a good thing to some people. I just found most of the costumes underwhelming. The set, however, was anything but underwhelming. Oh no.  Clashing patterns everywhere, too many layers of giant flowers, over-complicated designs on the architecture... It was all very busy (the whole set hurt my eyes).

I wasn’t intrigued specifically by anyone’s performance. Hilary Maiberger as Belle had a voice that was nasally and chock full of vibrato, like most Disney voices are. The Beast (Darick Pead), to his credit, did sound enamored during “If I Can’t Love Her.” Gaston (played by understudy Jeff Brooks) acted appropriately obnoxious. Although none of actors or actresses in this show garnered any of my specific interest, some of the characters did.

I know Gaston is supposed to be a chauvinistic pig. That doesn’t mean all the townswomen need to follow him around and drool over his every move. Every woman I can think of with half a brain would hate him with a passion. Don’t make bad examples of half the women in the show when the target audience is 4-8 year old girls! Children are impressionable.

And on that note, my biggest bone to pick...

This is a children’s show! I don’t understand how they can be making such childish jokes (such as slapping around Lefou, which lost it’s funniness the first time) one moment and then using obvious bawdy (or you could say body) humour the next. Babette (Jessica Lorion), a Feather Duster, was wearing thigh-high fishnet stockings that could be seen from every angle. They were especially evident when she faced away from the audience and bent over, all the while shimmying her ass at us. How many times did that happen? I lost track. There were many dirty jokes revolving around her, and she and Lumiere (Hassan Nazari-Robati) were having some blindingly apparent fun times. The Burlesque-like costumes in “Be Our Guest” didn’t help either. The whole scenario drove me up a wall. If you’re going to be a kid's show, be a kid’s show. Come on.

I can’t count how many little girls I saw dressed up as Belle or other nondescript princesses at this show. The highlight of the experience for me (and the only thing that evoked my true laughter) was the girl who was sitting in front of me,  crawling all over her mom the whole time. About a quarter of the way through the show, she impatiently asked “When is it gonna end?” I was SO there with her. During intermission I asked her how she liked the musical, and she answered with a nervous combined smile, shrug, and nod. Shortly after intermission, she and her mother left. In a way, I rather wish I could have followed suit.