“Beauty and The Beast” has such enduring appeal at its core that the French fairy tale has spawned numerous versions that, in turn, inspired hundreds of adaptations. David Pierini’s lively new adaptation for the B Street Family Series takes the best of Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont’s 1756 telling of the story and creates a lean, funny, heartfelt fable that both children and adults can enjoy.
If you’ve been exposed to Disney’s musical version of the story on stage or screen, you know most of the main plot lines, though that large-scale work extravagantly embellishes elements that are necessarily more intimate here.
At the story’s center is Michael Stevenson’s soulful Beast, transformed from John Lamb’s petulant Prince. After Tristan has scorned and ridiculed Amy Kelly’s bent and gnarled old Croan, she hurls a time-sensitive curse on him and his servant, Pascal (the effortlessly comic Greg Alexander). Tristan is turned into the hideous hairy Beast and Pascal into a helpful talking dog, and together they live in an opulent but lonely castle deep in the woods. Tristan has one year to undo the curse before it becomes permanent for them both. All he has to do is find a woman to marry him.
With only two weeks left, the Beast forces a poor wayward merchant (Ed Claudio) to send one of his two daughters to the castle for an extended visit he hopes will result in marriage. The merchant’s two daughters are the vain, materialistic Magette (the glorious Kelly), and the sweet, sincere Belle (Emily Killian).
Though we know how this will go, the getting to the moving conclusion is surprisingly charming and entertaining, thanks to the creativity of all involved.
Pierini’s smart script clings to the original story’s premise of deep spiritual love conquering superficial vanity. The contrasts are obvious in the hysterical bombast of Kelly’s Magette vs. the self-sacrifice of Killian’s Belle. Similarly we feel the sensitivity and yearning grow in Stevenson’s Beast as he and Belle spend more and more time together.
The presence of expert professional actors such as Alexander and Lamb, who also directed, raises the level of experience for everyone, proving again to be one of the main objectives of the B Street Family Series.
Call The Bee’s Marcus Crowder, (916) 321-1120. Follow him on Twitter @marcuscrowder.