What’s so Grand About Disney’s Beauty And The Beast | Verve Magazine
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October 22, 2015

What’s so Grand About Disney’s Beauty And The Beast

Text by Shraddha Jahagirdar-Saxena

The grand theatrical offering – originally produced by Disney Theatrical Productions and directed on Broadway by Robert Jess Roth – boasts of being India’s first Broadway style musical. We tell you why you should book those tickets already!

The premier performance – brought to the country by Disney India (headed by Siddharth Roy Kapur) and directed by Vikranth Pawar – showcased its fantastic world at the NSCI, Mumbai last night. More shows of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast production are scheduled to follow (October 23 to November 1 in Mumbai and from December 18 in New Delhi).  The musical is based on the Academy Award winning film Beauty and the Beast – and it opened here with lavish sets, eye-catching costumes and great production values. So, indulge in a willing suspension of disbelief as it presents a children’s story in a mega format – don’t all fairy tales ask us to lose ourselves in a magical world – sit back and enjoy it for…..

The sheer size of its presentation

One word describes it best – humungous! The indoor NSCI stadium turns into a theatrical auditorium to accommodate the vastness of the production. Please note, the closer one sits to the stage, the better. Those in the rows far behind are likely to miss out on the expressions, even as they remain captivated by the action. In fact, when the action spans the entire stage, I did not know where to look – there was so much happening on it!

The sets

The scenic design is impressive, recreating the different spaces with dramatic effect. So, whether it is the village where Belle resides, the castle over which the Beast rules or glimpses of the dark enchanted forests, it is all wonderfully done. The moveable sets and light projections mesmerise you. (What went into the making of this lavish set? Find out here.)

The music and dances

The former is by Academy Award-winning Alan Menken and it has you under its spell; the music direction is by Lesle Lewis. The lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice cleverly take the story forward. And one word will describe the choreography – amazing! Terence Lewis has gone all out to create movements that are well synchronised and executed – the huge cast does not falter, or at least noticeably – as each member shakes a leg to the beats. I watched engrossed as the musical progressed and the villagers, the residents of the castle (all morphed under the spell to things) and more put their best foot forward even as they rendered the lyrics live.

The cast

The production has the prologue spoken by the best of the best in India – Amitabh Bachchan – and when he speaks, all of us listen intently. The cast includes some of the well known theatrical talents in India. Meher Mistry as Belle lives the role perfectly. Her voice envelops the audience with a variety of moods and emotions. Her wild curls, smile and infectious energy endear her to the audience. Edwin Joseph as the Beast casts his spell – as he goes from arrogance, to anger, frustration, despair, hope…and finally a softer mood of love. Gaston is the epitome of narcissism and arrogance as he strives in vain to woo Belle. Cogsworth, Lefou, Mrs Potts, Lumiere and a host of other characters come alive in front of our eyes. The wolves too play their role admirably.

The lights, costumes and other effects

For a production of this magnitude with a huge cast, each costume has been created with care. Gavin Miguel gives every performer his due attention. The clever lighting enhances the impact of the sets that swiftly present changes of location, mood and feeling. And, I found the play of lights most impactful in the metamorphosis – where the man turns into beast and in the finale changes back into a human being. The characters appear from nowhere, sometimes dropping down from the ceiling, at others emerging from the aisles! The runway created in the audience brings some of the action a little closer. And, the pivot of the entire tale – the rose, whose falling petals herald the Beast’s doom – occupies pride of place moving gently to passing time.

And when the curtains come down – metaphorically – one is reluctantly transported back into the real world…

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