|Tony Edgerton and Jill-Christine Wiley|
Photo Courtesy of Arizona Broadway Theatre
Click here for more information on this production that runs through July 2nd at ABT in Peoria, then plays at the Herberger Theater in downtown Phoenix from July 7-16.
"...Disney’s Beauty and the Beast...on the evidence of this past weekend’s packed house at Arizona Broadway Theatre in Peoria, the piece remains as magical at the box-office as it appears on stage...it’s a crowd-pleaser on a grand scale, and if ABT knows anything, its how to present a crowd-pleaser and make it shine. ....Paul A Black’s set design continues to transport, particularly in the way the Beast’s castle slides from either side on stage, then twists and turns, and pieces together at different angles, forming various areas of the Gothic looking setting...The show can also boast a great cast with outstanding voices. In addition to (Jill-Christine) Wiley’s thoroughly pleasing Belle and (Tony) Edgerton’s terrific hairy beast, there’s great support from Christopher Michaels as LeFou who, in both sight and sound, is a dead-ringer for his animated counterpart; TJ Nelson’s Gaston, whose pronunciation of rendezvous as ren-dayz-vooz is all the funnier when you know he’s supposed to be talking French; and Jon Gentry as Belle’s eccentric father Maurice who makes his entrance on a wheeled contraption that could well have been a left-over invention from Caractacus Potts...all performers excel, particularly Zachary Spiegel’s fussy Cogsworth the mantle clock, and Ben Stasny’s Lumiere, the candelabra whose outrageous French accent is less Maurice Chevalier and more Inspector Clouseau. As Mrs. Potts the teapot, Gerri Weagraff’s rendition of the romantic, titular song is every bit as delicate and as charming as Angela Lansbury’s original...Music director Adam Berger does a tremendous job of making a seven-piece band sound more like a full orchestra pit, while Kurtis W. Overby’s choreography livens those big production songs. In truth, there’s a certain lack of spectacle in some of the larger numbers, particularly..but what those sequences lack in the glitzy magnitude that Broadway offered is compensated by the energy and invention of Overby’s steps. ...if it’s the first time your child has seen a musical as sparkling and as colorful as this and it inspires a new generation to return and see more kinds of theatre, then in its way, the musical is ultimately just as important as any other Broadway show." -David Appleford, Valley Screen and Stage (click here to read the complete review)
" Disney's Beauty and the Beast ran for over 13 years on Broadway, so to say it was a blockbuster show is pretty much an understatement. ...Arizona Broadway Theatre's production may not have creative elements as elaborate as what was seen on Broadway, but with a talented cast, several large set pieces, excellent costumes, and direction that is never heavy handed, it is a solid production of this family friendly show. It also successfully delivers on stage the important message of the film—that beauty is really found from within....Jill-Christine Wiley makes for a vibrant Belle. She instills the character with a keen sense of determination, but she also paints Belle as sweet, spunky, smart, and full of life. Wiley has a beautiful singing voice filled with purity and ..As the Beast, Tony Edgerton.. does exceptionally well in showing how this petulant man-child grows from a snarling animal into a person who actually has genuine feelings for the people around him. ...The changes in the Beast and his growing confidence come through very clearly even though Edgerton is buried under a fairly elaborate Beast mask and wig. Like Wiley, his voice soars to the rafters on the few songs he has, with his "If I Can't Love Her" especially moving....Ben Stasny and Zachary Spiegel make a hilarious twosome as the witty, rambunctious, fun, and slightly lusty candlestick Lumière and the tightly wound, worrisome, and overly dramatic clock Cogsworth. TJ Nelson and Christopher Michaels are equally as good as Gaston and his comical sidekick Lefou. Nelson's strong voice and lean muscular frame work perfectly for this conceited, burly man, while Michaels doesn't overplay Lefou too broadly, which is a huge plus. Gerri Weagraff's Mrs. Potts is sensible and full of charm—her performance of the title tune is a winner— and Jon Gentry is sweet and loving as Belle's father. The incredibly hard-working ensemble skillfully play an abundance of roles. Director Clayton Phillips does good work, not letting his cast stray too far from the well-known and iconic film characterizations but also adding some nice original touches that play up the comedy and fantasy elements of the show. Choreographer Kurtis W. Overby's dances provide several showstopping moments and music director Adam Berger achieves an incredibly lush and full sound from both the fairly large cast and the seven-piece orchestra. ...Paul A. Black's scenic elements and lighting designs are highly effective, with a beautiful painted show curtain that evokes a deep, dark and mysterious forest and five large set pieces, including three that move and rotate, portraying the various rooms in the Beast's castle....Disney's Beauty and the Beast is one of the most loved of the Disney animated films and the stage version is a faithful adaptation that delivers many magical and heartwarming moments. ABT's production is full of humor and heart with fantasy-filled creative elements and a lovely cast and firm direction that make the whole production feel fresh and relevant today." -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)
"Happily ever after is a wondrous place to be ~ as fine a sensation as you'll feel when the last rose petal falls in Arizona Broadway Theatre's captivating and spirited production of BEAUTY AND THE BEAST.... To wit, the musical on stage and on film is having a commercial heyday!...Clayton Phillips's astute directorial choice to let the story be told without the intrusion of overwhelming special effects. Paul Black's sets look like they've been plucked out of the pages of an old story book, ...the show radiates with intimacy and charm, thanks to standout performances by Jill-Christine Wiley as Belle and Tony Edgerton as Beast. A marvelous supporting cast infuses the tale with gaiety and whimsy. TJ Nelson flexes his talent as well as his muscles as the narcissistic Gaston, the persistent pursuer of Belle's affection. Jon Gentry is grand as Maurice, Belle's eccentric father. As Beast's servants who have been turned into household objects, Ben Stasny (Lumière, a candelabra), Zachary Spiegel (Cogsworth, a clock, Melissa Jones (Babette, a feather duster), Gerri Weagraff (Mrs. Potts, a tea pot, and Corban Adams (Chip, a teacup) conspire to deliver a delicious dose of fantasy and fun to the castle drama." -Herbert Paine, Broadway World (click here to read the complete review)