Who knows how many kids and parents have the songs from "Disney's Beauty and the Beast" etched in their brains from repeated listening? That number is surely astronomical, as the 1991 film has generated close to $425 million in revenue from its numerous releases.
The film's mega-success also inspired the creation of Disney's first-ever stage musical, and the live-action version of the story persevered on Broadway for 13 years and more than 5,000 performances. National and international tours have run nearly nonstop, and the show has been seen by more than 35 million people in 21 countries.
A new tour with fresh, smart staging from the original creators is playing at the Community Center Theater through Sunday. Director Rob Roth, choreographer Matt West and scenic designer Stanley A. Meyer have made the musical's presentation more fluid and slightly darker. For example, in the Beast's labyrinthine castle, rotating staircase set pieces manipulated by shadowy, gargoyle-like figures ingeniously add length and depth to the stage.
As in the movie, the castle suffers under a magical spell that drains life from its inhabitants and makes some of them more and more like inanimate objects. The central victim of the spell, a formerly handsome young prince (Darick Read), has been transformed into an unsightly monster due to an unfortunate encounter with a witch.
The servants caught up in his plight are his head butler Cogsworth (James May), who is becoming a grandfather clock; the head footman, Lumière (Hasan Nazari-Robati), who is changing into a candelabra; and the cook, Mrs. Potts (Erin Edelle), who is turning into a teapot.
The curse can be reversed only if someone falls in love with the Beast, despite his hideous appearance. As luck would have it, a smart and beautiful young woman named Belle (Hilary Maiberger) ends up at the castle looking for her lost father and suddenly there's hope for everyone.
Maiberger's vibrant soprano expressively handles the show's signature ballads "No Matter What" and "A Change in Me," while Read is equally adept with "How Long Must This Go On?" and "If I Can't Love Her."
The musical's memorable comic set piece, "Gaston," about the town heartthrob (Joe Hager) involves the energetic ensemble and the creative use of beer mugs. The Academy Award-winning score has music by Alan Menken and lyrics by Howard Ashman, with other songs by Menken and Tim Rice.
"Disney's Beauty and the Beast" remains a simple morality tale told in broad strokes with catchy tunes.
Disney's Beauty and the Beast
What: California Musical Theatre presentation
Where: Community Center Theater, 1301 L St., Sacramento
When: 8 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, 2 p.m. matinees Thursday, Saturdayand Sunday
Running time: 2 hours, 30 minutes including one intermission.
Call The Bee's Call The Bee's Marcus Crowder, (916) 321-1120. Follow him on Twitter @marcuscrowder.