Monday, June 24, 2013

Walt Disney World Review: Beauty and the Beast - Live on Stage

Stars: 2 out of 5
Pros: Looks good.  Includes the classic songs.
Cons: Pretty much just the songs with no thought to the story.
The Bottom Line
Disappointing show
Tries to tell story through songs
But just appears cheap

Great Costumes?  Check.  The Classic Songs?  Check.  Story?  Um....

My favorite movie is Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.  The animation is beautiful and all the characters are endearing.  When they made it into a Broadway show, I had to see it.  And when I went to Disney World a few years back, I made seeing Beauty and the Beast – Live on Stage a priority.  I shouldn’t have.

The show is located in an outdoor theater near the far end of Sunset Boulevard in the shadow of Tower of Terror.  The show only runs a few times a day, so you’ll need to check show times when you are there.  There is no separate admission, although you might have to camp out early to get good seats in the 1500 seat theater.  Fortunately when I was there, I didn’t have any trouble getting a seat.

Then again, maybe that should have been my first clue.

This production opened back in 1991, the same day the movie opened in theaters.  In all that time, they haven’t done anything to try update it.  Now I’m not going to complain about the costumes.  They are elaborate and big and everyone looks like their movie counterpart.  Since so many of the characters don’t have working mouths, they actually use the voice talent from the movie and just have the “actors” on stage bob when their character is speaking or singing.

Speaking of singing, the show is 25 minutes in length and includes 5 songs from the show.  Are you beginning to see a problem with the “story?”  If you haven’t seen the movie, you’ll probably be confused.  There is a narrator who summarizes the action from song to song.  Even then, they get some events out of order, making it annoying for those of us who know and love the movie, which at this point would be pretty much anyone who goes to see it.  Maybe it would have worked 20 years ago, but today it’s just going to annoy those of us who have watched the movie more times than we can count.

Again, I’m not going to say the choreography isn’t good.  It’s fun and inventive, especially since so many of the characters are in oversized costumes.

I’ve seen many of the live action shows in Disney parks over the years.  I get that they have to condense the story into a short time and have more of a limited budget.  But this feels amateurish and low budget to me.

Then again, maybe the fact that I’ve seen the Broadway version was part of the problem.  I know this story can be done much better on stage.  Plus, I love the Aladdin show at the Hyperion Theater in California Adventure, which is Broadway caliber theater and does a good job of telling that story in 45 minutes.  This fails on every level.

I am willing to forgive it a tad since it does include the songs from Beauty and the Beast, and they are fun.  “Be Our Guest” is the show stopping highlight as you would expect.

But that is hardly enough to recommend spending much time to see Beauty on the Beast – Live on Stage.  It is in desperate need of some attention to make it a show worth seeing.

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