The opening performance of Beauty and the Beast at the Winspear Opera House Tuesday night was filled with an interesting cross-section of women. There was the 25-40ish set, who actually saw the movie in theaters in 1991. There was the 15-24 demo, whose first look at the movie surely was on DVD. And then there were plenty in the under-15 category, who were introduced to the film by their mothers in the first group.
I seemed to be sitting mostly around the 25-40 group, and from what I can tell, they seemed to be into it the most – especially her and her. (Note to the woman sitting two seats down from me singing “Something There” along with Belle and the Beast: Singing along to the DVD at home, fine. Singing along to the live performance, not fine.)
And why shouldn’t they have been? There’s a reason why songs like “Be Our Guest” and the title number have stuck in their heads 20 years after the fact – they’re really good songs. On Tuesday night, they were performed by a cast whose bit players threatened to outshine its stars. Merritt David Janes as the lusty candelabra Lumiere and Keith Kirkwood as the tightly wound Cogsworth clicked as the show’s odd couple. Michael Fatica scored plenty of points with the kids for his numerous pratfalls as Gaston’s sidekick.
And what a scene-stealer that Gaston is. Nathaniel Hackmann plays him as a cartoonish ladykiller, all ego and flexing muscles. When he takes on the Beast near the end, at least a little bit of you hopes he wins. Justin Glaser plays the Beast for more laughs than you’ll remember in the movie; Liz Shivener as Belle sings with perfect diction, though there were a few missed notes on opening night. I overheard someone one the way out after the show saying that Shivener reminded her of Amy Poehler, an apt comparison.
The whole experience was probably my favorite of the touring Broadway shows that have come through the Winspear so far, despite what this guys says. The run continues through July 25, which gives us another opportunity to giveaway a few tickets. The first three people to e-mail me (firstname.lastname@example.org) with “Beast” in the subject line will win a pair of tickets each to the Friday, July 23 performance.
UPDATE: That was quick. All the tickets are gone.