Elizabeth Scripturient (the delinquent, ecumenical (hermionesviolin) wrote,
Elizabeth Scripturient (the delinquent, ecumenical

Beauty and the Beast - the play/musical

So, “Beauty and the Beast” is possibly my favorite fairy tale, and I actually love the Disney movie (a serious rarity for me) so of course I had to see the high school production of it.

The sets and costumes were intense like whoa. The mic-ing frequently copped out, which was frustrating.

The play is much more a straight-up musical than the film -- i.e., very little talking, with everything being done via song. I last saw the film less than 2 years ago, so partly I had that in my head and felt like the added songs were padding and more to the point very bleh songs. The songs in the film are primarily very fun. Here there was a lot of “Have a character explain his/her emotions/situation through song” which did not impress me.

[songs from the film, in alphabetical order; songs from the musical in order of appearance here and here]

“The Prince tried to apologize, but it was too late, for she had seen that there was no love in his heart.”

I forget exactly how it’s phrased in the film, but this bugged me because hi, you can reject one person for completely illegitimate reasons and still be very capable of loving other people.

“There must be more than this provincial life.”

I had recently read oyceter’s post on Joan D. Vinge’s The Snow Queen, in which she mentions court stories, so the idea of court life was in my head. [Incidentally: I need to stop reading the comment thread on that entry, because I remember loving the book, and while I can’t actually counter oyceter’s criticisms -- in large part because I don’t remember the book well enough -- it hurts. I was also surprised to see so many commenters recommending the sequel The Summer Queen because I remember Emma -- who recommended The Snow Queen to me -- telling me The Summer Queen was a bad book.]

Anyway, I was noticing this time ‘round the repetition of “this provincial life” and of course “provincial” can mean literally of a particular geographic area, also having a limited/narrow perspective, and finally unsophisticated. Belle’s complaint is that the villagers are so limited in their ways of seeing things, but I was thinking how it could be interpreted as a slam on village life in general, especially since she talks about wanting to escape to the lands described in the books she reads and the happy ending to a fairytale usually involves absorption into a high court. [My decision at the end was that Belle doesn’t buy into that dichotomy, but since the story does end with her escaping the village to live in a castle full of servants with a prince, I do find it somewhat problematic.]

“No Matter What” was an interesting addition because the Belle of the film never shows that kind of insecurity. (And its line about her being her mother’s daughter reminds us that she is mother-less. And I for one didn’t know the woman playing Belle and had wondered if that opening scene was Belle’s mother and Belle.)

I liked that the wolves’ attack of Belle’s father was stylized into a pseudo-ballet.

An interesting addition to Gaston’s awfulness was his pre-proposal encounter with the Three Swooning Girls where he basically says he’s been sleeping with them and will continue to do so even after he’s married. [I can’t find it on any pages, but basically they’re all weepy and he says surely the fact that I’m married won’t change your feelings for me, and they say no no no, and he says they’ll continue having their rendez-vows and they say yes yes yes.]

I disliked the heavy-handedness of Gaston’s proposal -- “You've been dreaming, just one dream, nearly all your life; hoping, scheming, just one theme: Will you be a wife? Will you be some he-man's property?” I was also confused that the next time we see him he’s all “She rejected me!” because the song ends with him so deluded with his own sense of self-greatness that he doesn’t seem to recognize it as a rejection at all. (I remember it being a flat rejection -- and a shorter scene, period -- in the film.)

They gayed up Lefou just a touch. ♥

They sexed up Babette (the feather duster) some (her flouncing into Maurice’s lap), which was interesting.

The “No no no” “Yes yes yes” “I have been burnt by you before” exchange bothered me more than it usually does (even though I last watched the movie after watching Mickey Mouse Monopoly).

I heart Lumiere far more in this version than I do in the film, though.

The creepy Msr. D’Arque was an interesting addition (in the film we see the man who runs the insane asylum little if any) though he felt like a Dr. Orin Scrivello DDS redux (in large part because his straightjacket covered chair was clearly a dentist’s chair with the high back).

After Belle swaps places with her father, she sings a song added to the musical that includes the lines “ Never dreamed that a home could be dark and cold,” and I thought that nicely undermined the fairy tale fantasy that castles are always glamorous wonderful places.

The idea that the servants are turning more and more into objects (as the spell nears unbreakableness) was an interesting and sinister addition. And it made the always disconcerting “We live to serve” opening bit of “Be Our Guest” even more disturbing.

And later the Beast sings [again, can’t find this song] how “there’s so little left inside me” and after the bit about the servants turning more and more into objects that was troubling to me because one could easily extrapolate that the Beast is becoming more and more beastlike due to the spell and thus his actions wouldn’t be his fault. In the film we never get any sense that he was cursed with anything more than an outward appearance -- all the “beastliness”of manner is internal to him -- but this song added in for the play could lead one to think differently. Though admittedly it could just be a reflection of his lack of contact with others (while Cogsworth and Lumiere are talking about the servants turning into objects, one complains about why they are victims of this spell, and the other counters that they have let the Master become how he is)

Belle runs away and the Beast follows her and fights off the wolves and then falls, wounded. This is in both versions. In the musical, she leaves him and is almost at the edge of the stage before she turns and goes back to tend to him. I was impressed by this, that she doesn’t immediately fall to tend to the wounded protector/savior. I think she does immediately tend to him in the film, and I don’t mind it, but I was impressed that this Belle was so determined to leave.

So they go back to the castle and she tends his wounds and Mrs. Potts makes soup and he tries to be good and then WHAM, cue “Something There.” In the film, we here this song while watching a montage, so we get the sense of time passing, whereas here it seems far more forced because it is so immediate.

“But he was mean and he was coarse and unrefined.”

The “unrefined” really threw me this time ‘round -- probably because of the aforementioned attunation to court-type stuff. She accused him earlier of being rude, and holding him to basic standards of politeness is valid, but “unrefined”? To me that reeks of high class life, which is not a life Belle comes from. Granted, she has read lots of books; but the way the song is it doesn’t feel like she’s holding him to what she thinks is a standard appropriate to his life but rather that she is holding him to the standard she has for people in general.

I do love the King Arthur scene, though. The one addition I wholeheartedly support. Lumiere knows from their tour of the castle that Belle loves books (and also that she has yet to see the library) and the interaction between Belle and Beast feels so true to their characters.

After the song the Beast holds himself more like a gentleman and just generally behaves like he is a human being rather than being so conscious of being a Beast (which follows nicely on how the book took him away from who/what he was -- which also added a nice note of kindred-spirit-ness between Beast and Belle) and I totally buy their relationship after the song, but the song itself felt so immediate and forced and if the play wasn’t gonna make attempts at showing a passage of time while it sang, I would have preferred that they just cut the song.

“Human Again” is another addition, and it emphasizes how important it is for the servants that the spell be broken, which adds a poignancy that isn’t the film -- particularly since it is sung in front of Beauty and the Beast (who are on the stairs reading King Arthur).

The singing of “Tale as old as time...” sounded so much like the film; I was impressed.

The Beast lets Belle go to find her father, and he gives her the mirror, and I’m not sure it had ever occurred to me before that this meant he could never see her again. He was giving her a huge gift.

Gaston says he can keep her father from being committed and I thought, “For the second time she is being asked to give up her freedom to save her father.” I had actually forgotten about the mirror as the device that moves the plot to its next point.

“If I didn't know better, I'd think you had feelings for this monster.” This time ‘round immediately conjured up images of the Beast as a black man. Not entirely sure why. I mean, they are basically a lynch mob, but I don’t usually think of the Beauty and the Beast story as a racialized one (though it could certainly be played that way) and I don’t think I’d particularly read anything about race recently.

“Screw your courage to the sticking place!”

For the first time I noticed that that’s from Macbeth. (Probably because I’ve read Macbeth twice in the last year.)

The fight scenes -- both mob vs. castle and Gaston vs. Beast -- were so much shorter than in the film as they’re hard to execute on stage whereas they’re so much fun to do in animation. I was saddened.

In the film, the prince gets whirled around in a magic swirly thing, and they actually translated that to live-action, with women in black (who had earlier played the wolves) lifting up the beast and removing his mask, gloves, and overshirt. I knew I was watching the film action translated into live action, but even with knowing that it felt strange (because you watch Belle slip away from the fallen Beast and then stand and watch as darkclad figures hold him up and turn him around). I would have preferred to have him fade in her arms (probably her surreptitiously removing his mask and him surreptitiously removing his gloves) but I suppose it would have been harder to dramatize her shock that way. I wish I had been watching Belle more than the Beast because my father said her expression wasn’t very much one of shock. The lines indicate that it should be, though.

Prince: Belle, look into my eyes! Belle, don't you recognize the beast within the man who's here before you?
Belle [looks directly into his eyes for a few beats, then]: It is you!

He looks like Westley in The Princess Bride movie, but with a very vacant look. Though the prince at the end of the Disney film I think looks the most vacant of all the Disney princes if I recall correctly. (I was discussing with my father, and the only Disney princes who actually do anything are also the only ones who get names -- Phillip in Sleeping Beauty and Eric in The Little Mermaid. My dad mentioned how the princes are what the stories are leading up to but the story really isn’t about them at all -- they’re no more than a device -- though this lack of story does let you project your own desires onto them. Writing this about princes who do things I remembered Aladdin. That’s an interesting reversal because he is the commoner marrying into royalty, he is the one whose story it is; though Jasmine gets a name and action of her own.)

I liked the framing of them telling the story to their child. (Fits nicely with the refrain of Angela Lansbury’s song.)
Tags: adaptations, plays: attended, plays: norwood

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