Theatre Thursdays: Beauty and the Beast

So I finally saw the Beauty and the Beast musical for the first time about a month ago. I didn’t like it, but of course that doesn’t mean much since most of my posts are about how I don’t like things. To clarify, I love the original movie. I think it’s fantastic, but I don’t believe it translated well, and maybe it was just the performance I saw, but I thought the play lost the original tone and epicness of the movie. It didn’t feel committed to telling the story it was based off. To be fair, plot-wise, it’s exactly the same. Everything else, however, completely differed.

I know that movies and musical performances are two very different mediums and that not everything done in one can be done in another, so I was expecting it to vary on some level, but not to the extent that it did. For the most part, what I can say about the musical is that it captures the visuals of the movie very well. Seeing them actually raise the beast and transform him at the end sends chills down my spine. All the magic of the movie came across in the play, and it was awesome.

That said, nothing else came across well. Some of the criticism of the movie is that Belle suffers from Stockholm syndrome, and I personally disagree with this. I can see the argument behind it, but I never thought that was the case. Whatever the original Disney film did to avoid that did not show up in the play. Maybe that’s because in the play the Beast, who’s obviously abusive, never learns to be more respectful until after Belle starts being nice. This doesn’t happen until after he saves her from the wolves, but Belle’s reaction is to suddenly fall in love with the man holding her prisoner. Her starting to like him is what brings out his kindness, as opposed to in the movie when his slowly blooming kindness brings out her like in him.

Furthermore, while the movie seemed very aware of the precarious positions it put the characters in, the musical did not. It turned everyone but Belle into comic relief characters. Everyone. Even the Beast. Gags flew around in every scene but the very first and the very last. With those exceptions, never once did the show break from the comic relief to have a more serious moment, and instead it turned the serious moments into jokes.

In fact, because the ending didn’t have any jokes marring it like the rest of the show, it felt like a different play. Because the musical never takes any time to develop and work with any of the serious scenes, Gaston’s death didn’t fit in anymore.

Speaking of Gaston, he was probably the only character in the play to not be completely insufferable as a comic relief character, and a lot of that has to do with how he’s presented in the movie and my not liking him than it does a good decision on the play’s part.

But for everything else? The humor just wouldn’t go away. Watching the Beast whimper in pain like a kicked puppy while Belle tends his arm after the wolf attack was just degrading. I want you to understand that when I say every opportunity made a joke, I mean every opportunity.

While Beauty and the Beast may have been more family friendly as a children’s movie, that was not the case in the play. These jokes were designed very much with only small kids in mind, which confuses the overall tone when they added all the over-the-top sexual innuendos between Lumiere and Featherduster. They didn’t stop. Constantly, they were at it, suggestively telling each other what they wanted to do offstage. And maybe something like that will go over a small child’s head, but they took the extra step to make Featherduster’s outfit as provocative as possible.

So we had these two, and then we had a bunch of childish jokes. And because of all this, it wasn’t really family friendly, nor can I tell what age group they were aiming for with their audience. Obviously, there were a lot of children at the theatre, but there were just so many adult-only suggestions in the play.

I know some of this may be nitpicking, and for the most part, people Online seem to love it, so I’m possibly in a small minority of people who hated this play. The music was great, the acting with the given roles was fantastic, and it didn’t hold back from trying to capture the magic in the movie, but for the other things, I most certainly could have done without.