The BEAUTY AND THE BEAST Poll

Beauty and the Beast Cover

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST

Today in 1994 was the day that Disney premiered the full-scale theatrical adaptation of their animated film, Beauty and the Beast, on Broadway. Here is a poll to commemorate the 15th anniversary of that day: I’ve filled my answers in here; you can add yours by copying and pasting the questions and supplying your own set of answers!

1. What do you like about this show? Or, if you’re not a fan, what makes it unmemorable for you? I was disappointed when I saw the stage show for the first time. I guess that this is because much of the new material is padding rather than material that enriches what what was already on the table. I think the spectacle of the production is fabulous, but in terms of the writing – it’s a bit “doughnuts for dinner”, as they say.

2. Pick your favourite song in the show and tell us why it’s your favourite? It has always been “Belle” and I think it always will be. It is a thrilling introduction to the characters and the world in which Belle finds herself. In my opinion, the song is one of the greatest establishing numbers in contemporary musical theatre. In just a few minutes, one is able to completely understand the lead character, the world in which she finds herself, and her relationships with the characters that surround her. It’s an amazing piece of writing.

3. What is your favourite lyric? “New and a bit alarming / Who’d have ever thought that this could be? / True that he’s no Prince Charming / But there’s something in him that I simply didn’t see.”

4. Got a number you just can’t stand? Tell us why. I’ve thought about this a great deal and the most jarring number for me is “Home”. First off, it doesn’t fit what’s going on in the scene. Emotionally, Belle should be singing something like “Shall I Tell You What I Think of You?” (from The King and I), but she’s singing an introspective, reflective ballad instead. Huh? And the verse prior to the song proper just isn’t sufficient as a bridge between the two emotional states. It’s the right starting point, but then it doesn’t get Belle to where she needs to be to reflect on the situation in the way that she does. Belle’s only emotionally ready to be introspective in that manner by the end of the sequence, where the reprise is. And even if the song was in the right spot – well, then we’d still have the terribly mawkish and at times pompous lyrics to deal with. It’s songs like this where Tim Rice is just no match for Howard Ashman.

5. Who’s your favorite character? In the film, it’s Belle – without a doubt. But given the sub-standard material they’ve created in an attempt to “flesh the character out”, I can’t say the same of the stage version. So I’ll say Lumiere. Nothing is lost in the transition between mediums for that character and the progressive transformation is one new element of the stage show that largely works.

6. Who is your favourite Beauty and the Beast-related performer? In terms of the whole body of their work, it has to be the film’s Jerry Orbach. If I had to pick someone from one of the stage productions, I guess I’d go for Andrea McArdle, who is just completely wonderful in just about anything she does.

7. Got a favourite production? What made it so special? Like I said above, I think the spectacle of the official Disney stage production is super.

8. What do you think of the show as an adaptation of the film? I think Disney took one of their richest films and watered it down to create a stage show that is somewhat entertaining in parts but ultimately disappointing. The film is excellent: the screenplay is more polished and literate than most of the other Disney animated features. The use of seasonal weather to indicate atmosphere, mood, balance and emotion is positively Shakespearean. And the intensive way in which the narrative is played out is just mind-blowing; the experiences that the characters are put through make the extreme emotional journey for both Belle and the Beast from initial dislike to love psychologically believable.

The songs and score – besides being just gorgeous little gems of music and lyrics – are so integral to the structure and storytelling of the film that it is impossible to imagine the two in isolation from one another. I love that Disney is clearly not yet stuck within the “Ashman-Menken” formula in this film, as they would be in some of their future releases – the only verbatim parallel in terms of the films is the big sidekick number performed to the heroine (“Under the Sea” in The Little Mermaid and “Be Our Guest” in Beauty and the Beast) and the off-screen choral singing at the end, which is at any rate a tradition that is used in all six of features Disney based on fairy tales. Other than that, the films work in a way that is completely different to one another.

The visuals are also stunning. The opening sequence, with the slow zoom through the forest towards the castle and then the sequence of stained glass tableaus, is breathtaking and there is such detail in the colour palette used througout the film. When you see Belle isolated in her song not only by her character and situation, but also by the fact that she is the only character wearing blue and it all comes together with that music and those lyrics – it’s thrilling.

There are really only two things that have ever really bothered me about the film: first, when Gaston looks at Belle’s book after “Belle” and dismisses it for not having pictures, when we’ve very clearly seen a picture in the book during the song. But I suppose in his very cursory flip through the pages of the book, he could have missed it or he could just be using his dismissal to tease Belle. The other thing that I’ve always had a bee in my bonnet about is that there is no definitive character song for the Beast, but when I watched the film again recently – well, I’m not sure there needs to be. I don’t know how adding such a piece would affect the pacing of the film.

As far as the adaptation goes, I think that the additions are mostly pleasant but – except for “If I Can’t Love Her” and “Me” – I don’t think Tim Rice’s material matches in what Howard Ashman wrote for the songs that were written for the film. “If I Can’t Love Her”, the song for the Beast, is by far the strongest addition to the score and it works for be because, as I mentioned above, this spot is always something that I’ve contemplated as being missing from the film. I don’t think any of the additional material written for Belle particularly extends the character or even serves her well; some good ideas, yes, but as executed, they’re generic pop pieces that only have a superficial connection to the action of the show. You could whip them out of the show and put them in another fairly easily.

Happy Birthday, Beauty and the Beast!

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24 Responses to The BEAUTY AND THE BEAST Poll

  1. Elliott Folds says:

    1. What do you like about this show? Or, if you’re not a fan, what makes it unmemorable for you? I’m a Disney fanboy and I’ve been a Disney fanboy for as long as I can remember, so Beauty and the Beast on stage was a combination of two of my favorite things: Disney and the stage.

    2. Pick your favourite song in the show and tell us why it’s your favourite? “Be Our Guest” and “If I Can’t Love Her.” Both are wonderful, but I love all the songs.

    3. What is your favourite lyric? Just about any lyric in “Gaston.”

    4. Got a number you just can’t stand? Tell us why. Nope.

    5. Who’s your favorite character? Lumiere!

    6. Who is your favourite Beauty and the Beast-related performer? Terrence Mann. I just love the man, love everything I’ve heard him in. Plus, he teaches at Western Carolina University, a great school, where my school does band camp every year.

    7. Got a favourite production? What made it so special? OBC.

    8. What do you think of the show as an adaptation of the film? I think it’s fantastic and probably the best of Disney’s adaptations, as far as remaining true to the movie goes. The Lion King comes in second, but Scar’s schizophrenia subplot throws it off, and The Little Mermaid, Der Glöckner von Notre Dame and Tarzan aren’t too much like their original films either, and Mary Poppins is way out there, so I’d say that’s about right.

  2. Brian says:

    1. What do you like about this show? Or, if you’re not a fan, what makes it unmemorable for you? Just the fact that it was Broadway’s first adaptation of a Disney film that I grew up with.

    2. Pick your favourite song in the show and tell us why it’s your favourite? “The Mob Song”: it features some of Ashman’s wittiest and cleverest lyrics.

    3. What is your favourite lyric? “We shall be the perfect pair/Rather like my thighs.”

    4. Got a number you just can’t stand? Tell us why. “Human Again.” When I was younger and would watch the movie, I had great respect for the Objects. Now that I am older and have been exposed to the stage version, I have completely changed my tune on the Objects and I fully blame “Human Again.” This song has proved to me how truly selfish the Objects are. They could care less about Beast being freed from his form; all they care about is when they can be human again. No wonder I like the movie better; the original version doesn’t have this debacle of a song in it (the newer version does, and whenever I watch it, you can guess at which part my finger gets better acquainted with the skip button). After hearing this exploration in conceit and big-headedness, I have zero respect for Lumiere, Cogsworth, Mrs. Potts et al because they clearly don’t care about Beast and his problems.

    5. Who’s your favourite character? Gaston, D’Arque, and Cogsworth.

    6. Who is your favourite Beauty and the Beast-related performer? If I’d have to pick a favourite, it’d probably be Ashley Brown.

    7. Got a favourite production? What made it so special? Not really.

    8. What do you think of the show as an adaptation of the film? I thought it was very faithful, but at the same time improved upon it.

  3. ConverseSneaker says:

    1. What do you like about this show? Or, if you’re not a fan, what makes it unmemorable for you? What’s there not to like? It feel it goes above and beyond the usual prince-meets-princess, prince-and-princess-fall-in-love, prince-conquers-evil, prince-gets-princess affair.

    2. Pick your favourite song in the show and tell us why it’s your favourite? I love “The Mob Song”!

    3. What is your favourite lyric? ‘And for once it might be grand / To have someone understand / I want so much more then they’ve got planned.’

    4. Got a number you just can’t stand? Tell us why. I don’t like the Beast’s first little solo right before he decides to act like a gentleman. See? I hate it so much I can’t even remember the name of it!

    5. Who’s your favorite character? I love Belle dearly but I have a special fondness for Lumiere and Babette and obviously the green Silly Girl.

    6. Who is your favourite Beauty and the Beast-related performer? I never saw the Broadway or West End or a Tour so I can’t really say so.

    7. Got a favourite production? What made it so special? My own!

    8. What do you think of the show as an adaptation of the film? It think it made it better by adding in more to the characters we see little of in the movie and I love the whole “turning into objects” subplot. So much cleverer!

  4. Faith Kelter says:

    1. What do you like about this show? Or, if you’re not a fan, what makes it unmemorable for you? Too many things to name, but just a few: it was the first Broadway show that made me want to keep coming back (and it did, for 75 more times). It was the one that made me keep coming back to Broadway in general, the one that taught me what I know about theater. It brought me a good portion of my friends who I love to this day. As well as story wise, it’s amazingly memorable and well done.

    2. Pick your favourite song in the show and tell us why it’s your favourite? “Be Our Guest”. Aside from obvious reasons, it always made me smile. Even when the role of Lumiere was cast horribly, that number always seemed to bring out the best in the performer and make them give it their all for a solid 8 minutes. It’s powerful, I tell ya; powerful stuff!

    3. What is your favourite lyric? I can’t pick just one beautiful lyric, because so many ring true. But oddly enough, I am going to say Maurice’s line in “No Matter What,” where he says: ‘except one uncle who… well maybe let that pass.’ I remember it so well because such a simple line and yet a pal heard it and managed to write a whole story just about that unknown uncle that made so much sense. It was unbelievable. Now I have to go look it up!

    4. Got a number you just can’t stand? Tell us why. I have to side with ConverseSneaker and go with “How Long Must This Go On?” It really was just pointless and slowed things down a little. The Beast has a huge, beautiful number coming up in 10 mins, but he just had to have something tiny right there to slow down the arrival of my favorite scene in the show? He really was a selfish character!

    5. Who’s your favourite character? Lumiere and Babs, all the way.

    6. Who is your favourite Beauty and the Beast-related performer? Movie wise, Jerry Orbach. (Gotta be fair and mention greatness.) Musical wise, Peter Flynn and Meredith Inglesby. Best Lumi and Babs pair ever. Period. No question.

    7. Got a favourite production? What made it so special? The Broadway production in general, no real set time frame or cast. I had my favourites, but there were FEW times I ever went to the show and decided I didn’t want to be there. The production was just “the original” and nothing can ever compare to it. Miss it a lot.

    8. What do you think of the show as an adaptation of the film? The best that Disney ever did, with The Lion King getting a close second. Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King were made in a time when Disney Theatricals actually seemed to care about the quality of their work. “Characters that turn into objects for 90% of the show? Ok, we can’t do ABC, so let’s try XYZ!” “Animals make up the entire cast? Hmm, little tough, but here’s what we can do…”

    That’s what made those first two shows so incredible. They saw situations that could be obstacles, met them head on, and adapted them to make them work. Not only that, they took a short little films, and expanded on them in such a way that you couldn’t take your eyes off what was happening. They added to the characters’ emotions and problems and made you care even more. These days, they’re not doing that anymore, and it’s very sad, more about the name fame and money. But at least we always have these two shows to truly represent what we know as Disney magic on Broadway.

  5. Beagle on Stage says:

    1. What do you like about this show? Or, if you’re not a fan, what makes it unmemorable for you? The show has a certain magic surrounding it. It is wonderful to perform in and wonderful to see. I was a child when the movie first came out, so I have a history with it. Being part of it as an audience member or performer can only be described a magical.

    2. Pick your favourite song in the show and tell us why it’s your favourite? “Be Our Guest”. It is such a treat to witness.

    3. What is your favourite lyric? ‘Build higher walls around me, change every lock and key.’

    4. Got a number you just can’t stand? Tell us why. “Maison des Lunes”. I feel that it is of a lower quality than the rest of the score, and doesn’t add much to the show as a whole.

    5. Who’s your favorite character? Mrs. Potts.

    6. Who is your favourite Beauty and the Beast-related performer? Susan Egan.

    7. Got a favourite production? What made it so special? My own production years ago. It was a very memorable experience that I shared with some great friends. I don’t have a favorite professional production, though.

    8. What do you think of the show as an adaptation of the film? It was transferred to the stage very well.

  6. Beagle on Stage says:

    David Fick wrote:

    I don’t think any of the additional material written for Belle particularly extends the character or even serves her well; some good ideas, yes, but as executed, they’re generic pop pieces that only have a superficial connection to the action of the show. You could whip them out of the show and put them in another fairly easily.

    You’re absolutely right. Especially “A Change in Me” – while I like the song, most leads in musical theatre could sing the song exactly as it is three-quarters of the way through the show.

  7. Brigantine says:

    David Fick wrote:

    There are really only two things that have ever really bothered me about the film: first, when Gaston looks at Belle’s book after “Belle” and dismisses it for not having pictures, when we’ve very clearly seen a picture in the book during the song. But I suppose in his very cursory flip through the pages of the book, he could have missed it or he could just be using his dismissal to tease Belle.

    Wow. Of the hundreds of times I’ve watched the movie, I’ve never thought of that. Too funny!

    1. What do you like about this show? Or, if you’re not a fan, what makes it unmemorable for you? Love the show. My favorite Disney movie and I loved it on stage.

    2. Pick your favourite song in the show and tell us why it’s your favourite? I like the “Belle” reprise and parts of “The Mob Song”.

    3. What is your favourite lyric? ‘Build higher walls around me, change every lock and key.’

    4. Got a number you just can’t stand? Tell us why. “Maison des Lunes”.

    5. Who’s your favorite character? Belle, of course, but I also have a soft spot for Cogsworth.

    6. Who is your favourite Beauty and the Beast-related performer? Paige Davis (loved her on Trading Spaces!)

    7. Got a favourite production? What made it so special? I saw a production in London and was in a community theater production, so of those two… I dunno. Belle in London was horrible, but I was literally crying during “Be Our Guest”, so it was still a great show.

    8. What do you think of the show as an adaptation of the film? I agree with David: I don’t like the changes they made to Belle – she kind of comes off as a snotty brat sometimes (or could with the wrong actor). Some of the sweetness seems to be missing, but other than that, I love the additions and the adaptation.

  8. 1. What do you like about this show? Or, if you’re not a fan, what makes it unmemorable for you? Just the magic of it, I guess. It’s so much fun to watch, and especially to be in.

    2. Pick your favourite song in the show and tell us why it’s your favourite? “A Change in Me”. I feel like, if done right, it can move a crowd. And by right, I mean belted.

    3. What is your favourite lyric? “Nothing lasts, nothing holds all of me” from “Home”. I dunno why, just gives me chills every time.

    4. Got a number you just can’t stand? Tell us why. “Be Our Guest”. I feel like it’s so overrated. I do love it to a degree, but I hate that it’s everyone’s favorite number.

    5. Who’s your favorite character? LeFou. Duh.

    6. Who is your favourite Beauty and the Beast-related performer? Both Ashley Brown and Susan Egan… and maybe Terrence Mann too.

    7. Got a favourite production? What made it so special? Yes, the one I was in last summer. So many good memories, and one of the best roles I’ve ever played (LeFou, of course).

    8. What do you think of the show as an adaptation of the film? I think they did a great job, personally.

  9. 1. What do you like about this show? Or, if you’re not a fan, what makes it unmemorable for you? I like this show because it has a lot of heart and tender emotion behind it. It also features a very nice bass/baritone (moreso the latter) role if I do say so myself!

    2. Pick your favourite song in the show and tell us why it’s your favourite. “If I Can’t Love Her”. The Beast is my favorite character and he definitely needed a song given to him in the transition to the stage. I must say he got a very good one. The song gave me pure chills seeing our Beast perform it from backstage (and Terrence Mann’s performance on the OBCR isn’t bad either).

    3. What is your favourite lyric? ‘Lefou, I’m afraid I’ve been thinking. / A dangerous pastime! / I know.’

    4. Got a number you just can’t stand? Tell us why. I can stand all the songs, but the one I care for the least is “Home”. To me it just doesn’t fit Belle’s character at all, nor the situation she’s in at the point it’s sung in the show.

    5. Who’s your favorite character? The Beast.

    6. Who is your favourite Beauty and the Beast-related performer? Terrence Mann. He’s good friends with my Drama teacher. Plus, he teaches at Western Carolina University (an in-state school).

    7. Got a favourite production? What made it so special? The production I was in during spring 2006. Our show was incredible and our cast amazingly close.

    8. What do you think of the show as an adaptation of the film? Beauty and the Beast was always one of my favorite Disney films. I think the show (overall) improved upon it by giving more depth to the supporting cast and adding songs for the leading males.

  10. Ian Denham says:

    1. What do you like about this show? Or, if you’re not a fan, what makes it unmemorable for you? I like the show because it is a spectacular show!!

    2. Pick your favourite song in the show and tell us why it’s your favourite. Definitely “If I Can’t Love Her”. It shows how the Beast is really feeling, which the movie didn’t do.

    3. What is your favourite lyric? ‘Try the grey stuff. / It’s delicious!’

    4. Got a number you just can’t stand? Tell us why. “Home”. It brings me down.

    5. Who’s your favorite character? Lumiere.

    6. Who is your favourite Beauty and the Beast-related performer? Annalise van der Pol. So amazing as Belle.

    7. Got a favourite production? What made it so special? The touring production in the 1990’s. I saw it when I was three when it came to Pittsburg. So awesome!

    8. What do you think of the show as an adaptation of the film? I think it put together (to me) some pieces of the puzzle.

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