by Brenton Crozier
On the way home from the Times-Union Center, after attending Beauty and the Beast, my four-year old daughter asked, “So why did the witch turn the prince into a monster?” It seems a rather simple allegory of being kind to all despite outward appearances. I think I stumbled through something like that in trying to articulate an explanation. I don’t think it was all that successful though, as she didn’t feel that the punishment fit the crime. The innocence of youth? A heavy-handed fairy tale? I truly can’t be sure. Although it left us pondering such weighty concepts, it was quite entertaining for us both.
The extremely popular Disney story has been immensely popular as a Broadway musical and is now being performed at the Times-Union Center as part of The Artist Series. I went not knowing exactly what to expect in regards to how it would resonate with either one of us. The brief takeaways would read: I don’t care much for musicals and my daughter is super scared of the Beast. But you should stick around for the entire story.
The sets were really ornate and whimsical, living up to the high Disney standard you would expect. The costumes were cartoonish, exactly as they should be. The acting was sound although the laughter breaks felt nearly Vaudevillian at times. It was a fun production to attend and is ideal for full family attendance, although it may be a tad dark and scary at times for children under 5 (no, I won’t be looking for anyone to reimburse me for the therapy my daughter will now be undergoing) [insert wink at the audience and laughter pause].
As a member of the musical theatre unwashed, I found myself getting antsy at times, as did my daughter. But when the moments hit, they really hit, like in the performance of “Be Our Guest.” While my daughter particularly enjoyed the village scenes, which were lighter, fun and comedy-focused, I found myself drawn into the castle scenes. The whole visualization and concept of human metamorphosis into inanimate household objects was particularly fascinating. Also, the plates and French housekeeper delivered shades of a Vegas production that will keep dad happy. The interactive touches of shooting streamers into the audience were also fantastic.
On the whole, it’s a good opportunity for fans to get a taste of Broadway in Jacksonville and a could be that special family night out that you’ve been looking for.
Beauty and the Beast will be at the Times Union Center through Sunday, November 13th with shows each evening and Saturday and Sunday matinees. Tickets start at $27 and are available by calling (904) 632-3373 or 88-860-BWAY. Tickets are also available online with Instant Seat Selection by visiting The Artist Series’ website: www.artistseriesjax.org.