It’s a tale as old as time: far off places, daring swordfights, magic spells, a prince in disguise. But at Creative Cauldron, “Beauty and the Beast” is given a fresh twist. Reimagined for a more intimate space, director Matt Conner’s rendition of the grandiose Disney classic is equipped with talented actors and theatrical ideas that are, true to the name of the theater, creative.
‘Beauty and the Beast’ opens just in time for summer’s start, imbued with all the magic of fairy tales and childhoods.
Beaumont’s fairy tale was popularized by the beloved 1991 animated film and enjoyed a pop-culture renaissance after the 2017 live-action version featuring Emma Watson as Belle. The Broadway adaptation, which opened in 1994, featured well-known tunes, vibrant costumes, and a plethora of talking furniture, all playing out on a magnificent stage. Within the limitations of a smaller space, Creative Cauldron chooses to explore a scaled-down “Beauty and the Beast,” which works by directing focus to the love story between Belle and her captor-turned-friend. Though some of the spectacle of the most dazzling numbers is dulled, the result is an interesting blend of large and small, familiar and unfamiliar.
One of the most special parts of the show is Eleanor Todd’s performance as the titular Belle. Thoroughly expressive with a voice like honey, Todd’s Belle is effortlessly funny and visibly intelligent, a princess made relatable and real as she dodges Gaston’s heavy-handed advances. Each thought dances across her open face, making songs like “Home” and “A Change in Me” fantastically enjoyable departures from the movie canon. In turn, Wyn Delano sheds the established masked get-up as the Beast, opting for two symbolic streaks of black down his cheeks and relying on his animalistic demeanor and soaring baritone to create the picture of the man within.
Of course, most of the best-loved elements of the musical remain. Lumiere (Joshua Simon), Cogsworth (Mikey Bevarelli), and Mrs. Potts (Jennifer Pagnard) are their charming selves around the castle, with Pagnard’s voice even a stunning facsimile of Angela Lansbury’s. Ryan Manning’s Gaston is up to his usual buffoonery, abetted by the hilarious Chris Rudy as LeFou. A supporting cast of children, made up of students from one of Creative Cauldron’s several education programs, and, though the stage sometimes feels crowded, they augment the storybook aspect of “Beauty and the Beast,” reminding the audience who the show is really meant for.
As doors open and close like the covers of a book, the set is manipulated by the actors; minimalism works here with rose motifs and walls filled with bookshelves. Stylish costumes for the household servants suggest their objecthood without being cheesy, and numbers are staged with bits of comedy and clever props to account for a lack of space to dance in. Clean execution and tight harmonies were standard for the talented ensemble, a mark of Conner’s deft direction.
“Beauty and the Beast” opens just in time for summer’s start, imbued with all the magic of fairy tales and childhoods.
Running Time: 2 hours and 30 minutes with a 15-minute intermission.
“Beauty and the Beast” runs through June 23rd at Creative Cauldron, 410 South Maple Ave, Falls Church, VA 22046. For more information or to buy tickets, call 703-436-9948 or go online here.