Beauty and the Beast – Broadway Show (Review)

I saw the current touring version of Beauty and the Beast tonight – first time I’ve actually seen it, which is kind of strange given that it’s my favourite of the modern, pre-Pixar Disney movies. I was just literally never in the right city at the right time until now.

Unfortunately, this staging had some problems – primarily a literal stage issue, as they covered a full 1/4 of the top of the stage with scrollwork, making it impossible for people in the higher levels of seating to see anything in the back of the stage, including the majority of the Beast’s interactions with his rose. Those aside, they made a few directoral decisions that didn’t sit terribly right with any of us (us being my sister, her roommate, and one of Greta’s coworkers). First, they turned up the creep factor on Lumière quite a bit, to the point that it wasn’t flirting, it was harassment – and with several of the characters. None of us talked about it as it was happening, but all came to that conclusion on our own.

Secondly, and more disturbingly? They really upped Beast’s violence – and they did so in ways that crossed the perpetual problem that Beauty and the Beast has: how closely can they toe the domestic violence line without going so far as to make Beast completely unsympathetic.

Unfortunately, for this production, they not so much crossed the line as they got it in sight and then took a flying leap over it. Beast throws Belle around, he grabs her head and chin several times, pins her against railings, etc – and that’s just the physical stuff. When coupled with the bad temper and the language, and it is just All Around Bad.

I know I’m not remembering the movie with particular rosy glasses – it definitely toed that same line, which has been a problem with the story since forever. I think the major difference is that in the movie, we see time pass, and Belle has a chance to learn why the Beast is so damaged. Yes, this falls into another problematic area: girl saving a wounded man with the power of her love, but the movie manages to skirt it – not, perhaps, well, but it at least suggests that they knew what they were doing and what they were trying to avoid.

Unfortunately, losing the seasonal moments and the sense of time passing, along with the more gradual softening of Beast, makes the domestic violence allegory already stand out. When you then add in the physicality of this interpretation of the story, it becomes significantly disturbing on a level that seems very anti-Disney.

And yet, after all that? They black out the stage when Gaston dies. Because apparently we can show young girls being beaten by the man they’ll marry, but we can’t show a man falling to his death. Yeah, that’s healthy.

Ultimately, I think the story suffers in stage version. That said, I did really enjoy the new songs added for the play, and the young lady playing Belle was fantastic – it was like the animated Belle stepped off the screen and on to the stage. Several of the ensemble characters stood out, as well – unfortunately, the other weakness in the play was again Beast, who rarely used his full voice when singing, and the music suffered from that.

Overall, I’d say that it’s worth seeing for a slightly different interpretation, but if you take children, view it as an opportunity to discuss appropriate relationships and boundaries with them, rather than expecting the more cheerful movie version of the story.

Performance Details & Review – Company

When a performance is an all-star cast, it’s difficult to structure the review. When the performance includes Neil Patrick Harris and Christina Hendricks stripping to their skivvies in a delicious act of “service ALL the fans,” thoughts of a performance review go right out the window, as one is entirely too busy giving thanks. However, one would be remiss to not give it a try, both for posterity – and pity for those unable to witness such an all-star performance, skivvied or otherwise.

For those unfamiliar with Company, it is a non-linear Sondheim story that follows the life of Bobby (Neil Patrick Harris). Bobby is turning 35, and via vignettes unconnected in time and often separated by song, Bobby discusses love, marriage, and living with his friends.
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Being Alive – Thoughts on “Company”

I first encountered Sondheim’s “Company” in my early 20s. I was married, living in Reno, and moving into “adult” theatre as opposed to what was appropriate for children.

I was, to say the least, not impressed. It was dated, clearly no one thought that any more – any of that, from marriage to how awesome NYC was to busy signals.

Dated.

However, one makes a lot of concessions for artists one is beholden to, and for various reasons, Neil Patrick Harris and Stephen Colbert are, each in their own ways, artists I am extremely beholden to. Pattie LuPone, Anika Noni Rose, and then later John Cryer and Christina Hendricks all nicely added anticipation to the purchased-basically-when-announced tickets of a limited (four show) performance of “Company” at Avery Fischer Hall with the New York Philharmonic.

Some people suffer for art. I was willing to suffer for artists.

What I was not expecting was resonance.

I am turning 35 in five weeks. I am divorced and have been for years. I live on the East Coast now, and every time I go in to NYC, I have to resist the urge to stand and spin slowly in the streets. Everyone might not be a friend, but I understand the powerful urge to cry.

When I was 22, the problem was not that “Company” had aged, but that I had not aged enough.