Thursday, March 12, 2015

Beauty and the Beast is Back

Be the guest of Hennepin Theater Trust at their latest off Broadway offering

Photo Courtesy of Hennepin Theater Trust
It's amazing how the older one gets, the more one realizes how little they know.

Take Disney for instance. Like most children in the United States, I grew up watching their cartoons, particularly the princesses. Cinderella, Belle, Jasmine, Pocahontas and Ariel were each a vibrant part of my childhood.

As I got older I felt detached from Disney and stopped watching most animated films altogether. It began to feel too simplistic and easy, and I stayed away for years... until I saw Beauty and the Beast on stage this week.

All of a sudden, there's new life to be found in this story I grew up with. The execution of this production is a bit careworn; it's pared down from its Broadway extravaganza self, and the actors seem a bit more battle hardened than usual. But the props still sparkle, the songs still please, and the effects still awe. This ain't Broadway, but it's still a hell of a lot of fun.

Photo Courtesy of Hennepin Theater Trust
Standouts as always include "Be Our Guest" and a particularly feisty Gaston, played by Cameron Bond. Bond truly puts the Elvis into his character, and it's a hoot to watch. Belle (Jillian Butterfield) and Mrs. Pots (Emily Jewell) also have great voices that display familiarity with their cartoon doppelgangers. Surprisingly, the best song (vocally) of the entire show is the relatively new addition "Human Again," on which the ensemble cast sounds terrific. "Human Again" anchors a super fun second act; keep an eye out for it.

I am going to safely assume all readers have been exposed to this story, so I won't repeat the plot.
Photo Courtesy of Hennepin Theater Trust
And I'm not going to become a Disney apologist either; there are some very real criticisms that have been made of Disney stories (particularly in regards to racial and sexual orientation portrayals) that are incredibly important to keep alive in the cultural firmament in order to keep propelling their future storytelling forward.

I will add, however, that we shouldn't throw the baby out with the bathwater. There are plenty of political incorrections one can find in a story like Belle's, but there are good things I learned as a child, too. I learned to love to read, and that being a smart girl was a positive thing. I learned that it's important not to judge people by their appearances but instead by the way they treat others. I learned that it's important to be a good host, a gracious guest, and to give love and assistance to those who need it most.

Those things are still important, and I hope that kids in the future can still learn lessons like that from the stories I once loved. There's still magic to be found in the Beauty and the Beast, and it's worth a visit. For more information and ticket pricing, please click on this link.