An acclaimed hit last year when Olney first mounted this production, “Disney’s Beauty and the Beast” avoids the trap of trying to replicate the original version of such a well-loved and iconic musical. Olney’s version stays true to the heart of a story generations have come to love, while at the same time, making it its own and not letting the show be defined by what came before.
Olney Theatre will give you a show that is both familiar and fresh and, above all, fantastical and fun.
From the story that started as a French fairy tale before it was adapted into a beloved Disney Renaissance hit, the stage version of “Beauty and the Beast” opened on Broadway in 1994. The show uses all the songs and hits the same story beats from the film, while also adding additional numbers (including one that was cut from the movie) and expanding upon the story and characters. The story is one that continues to resonate after so many centuries with its message about true beauty coming from within.
The cast brings fresh takes on the characters rather than trying to imitate the film’s counterparts. Jade Jones captivates as Belle with her confidence and strength and gives one of the most beautiful performances of “Home” done so far. Evan Ruggiero gradually transforms the Beast from an intimidating monster to a gentle, self-sacrificing prince. The talent doesn’t end there as the whole cast is incredible and all shine in their roles. One of the highlights comes whenever Michael Burrell and John Sygar take the stage as Gaston and Lefou with their hilarious expressions and commitment.
Costume designer Ivania Stack deserves all the praise for her original designs. Taking inspiration from the movie in either color palette or silhouette, she then branches off and does her own version that is completely unique and separate from the stage show, yet still recognizable. She also makes choices that add to the storytelling, like putting Belle in pants at the beginning, which clearly separates her from the rest of town and shows how she breaks societal expectations of the time.
The scenic design by Narelle Sissons and lighting design by Colin K. Bills work hand-in-hand to take the story through its many locations. From the use of shadow play to led strips on the walls, both keep the visuals of the show exciting and dynamic. “Beauty and the Beast” can be challenging to do on stage because of its grand and varied locations, dramatic action, and drastic transformations. Olney Theatre made it possible—and a lot of what made it possible can be seen in the scenic and lighting design. Just when you think every trick in the bag has been used, they pull out another, making the experience every bit as magical as the story that is unfolding.
The team at Olney Theatre will give you a show that is both familiar and fresh and, above all, fantastical and fun. “Disney’s Beauty and the Beast” is loved by all ages from parents who took their kids to see the film when it was released; to those who grew up with the movie; and kids now who love the Disney version. It is a great way to introduce children to a story that teaches and reminds them that true beauty is not about what is on the outside, but what is on the inside.
Running time: Two hours and and 30 minutes with one 15-minute intermission.
Disney’s Beauty and the Beast,” runs through January 1, 2023 at Olney Theatre Center’s Mainstage Theatre, 2001 Olney-Sandy Spring Road, Olney, MD 20832. Tickets are available for purchase online here or by calling the Box Office (301-924-3400) Wednesday – Sunday, 12 – 6 pm. Health & Safety: For performances on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, face masks are recommended but not required. For performances on Wednesdays and Sundays, face masks are required.