Disney's Beauty & the Beast on Broadway @ KLCC Plenary Hall

Stage screen with projected logo Attended the third last show of the local run of Disney's Beauty & the Beast on Broadway in KLCC Plenary hall Wednesday night and I left totally awestruck by the event. In comparison with earlier musicals I've attended, this was miles above in terms of production quality and diversity.

[Note - Last year's My Fair Lady in comparison was super-lame with minimal props and only ONE backdrop/prop during the ENTIRE length of the show. Talk about extremely lazy stage design. Lucky for me that show I attended with 80% discount tickets hee hee]

Where do I begin with BATB ... hmmm? Story wise, the revised version used in the broadway production does speed up the timeline of the original to show how Belle falls in love with the Beast in just a few days instead of the months in the movie (you never see the seasons change in the musical). Additionally, the rose is not timed to the Beast's 21st birthday but is just shown to be wilting (listen to the soundtrack and you'll hear the difference in narration!). Occupants of the castle do not change immediately as with the Beast but experience a gradual change over time and this is highlighted in the musical.

The cast on this local run was from the UK production team and were really good. On the night, Belle was played by Ms. Laura Clemens and was commendable although at times lacking in the power and conviction to show a particular emotion. Her rendition of "A change in me" felt hurried and tired but satisfyingly convincing nonetheless - but overall, it sometimes felt as though the scores were a tad too high for her vocal range and sounded forced. Cat commented that she didn't sound miang enough and I have to agree, especially on "Something there".

I do not know who the rest of the cast were as I didn't want to splurge on the programme booklet which was being sold at a ludicrous price of RM30. Had it contained more information on the team then I would have bought a copy, but for multiple pages of adverts and speeches from ministers/organisers, I decided to give it a pass. Whoever played Gaston and LumiƩre on that nights' performance was superb. Their on-stage antics and over-the-top movements made the audience laugh out loud and were appropriately used without becoming overbearing. Two thumbs up to both you guys whoever you are!!

Finale ballroom sequence The best part of the night were the inanimate objects - now THAT's what I call a stage. Anyone who attended this musical will probably have to agree that stage and prop design was incredible. The musical made very clever use of real propane fire props and fireworks to grand effect. Right from the beginning, the witch's fireball was timed with hall strobe lights and well timed lighting to recreate the illusion of the spell being cast ... the audience was in for a musical treat! The stage's see through screen was also put to very effective use with the help of a high intensity projector that recreated the complex scenes of the forest and storybook animated scenes. Many stages in Malaysia have that screen but it has never been used to this extent (at least not that I know of). I counted probably seven backdrop changes alongside various moving props to complete the effect.

The best part was the self-propelled revolving centre-prop which took its place in various acts as the castle stairs, ballroom entrance, rooftop, balcony and library alcove depnding on how it combined with many other 'pieces' that attached themselves as they slid in from stage left and right. In the climax where Gaston falls of the roof, every aspect was called into play - making use of the revolving prop to show how the fight progresses from the room out to the balcony and later to the roof. The projector now supplying 'rain' and 'lighting' with the help of cleverly placed strobes. One word sums it all = AMAZING!

Other details and changes?
  • They didn't bring in a live orchestra although live musicians were used. Only real instruments were used when solos were called for - from what I see only for the flute, oboe, bass, cello, tuba and percussions. The rest of the ensemble were covered with the use of five synthesizers ranging from Rolands to Korg synths. From the sound created, they probably didn't use the built-in instruments and made use of external VST plugins such as Garritan's Personal Orchestra but we'll never know. It did affect the overall sound slightly (by sounding less live)but at least it didn't distract too much plus, it is WAY easier to amplify and balance between the actors and musicians in terms of volume.
  • Orchestra pit with no players! Notice the synths on the left
  • Somehow, everything in this production was switched left to right. The witch during the prolougue soars up at stage left instead of right as in US productions whilst the castle bedroom and Belle's farmhouse are also on opposing sides of the stage. Wierd, but doesn't effect story anyway ... just my two sen.

  • "Be our guest" made use of the projector again instead of the mechanical props in US broadway runs (seen here)to show dancing Chinaware. I'm guessing this was logistically easier instead of shipping the whole prop over. There is also far less cast on the number as opposed to other runs overseas.

  • During the opening scene here, Belle immediately appears in the town square seated at the fountain. In other oversea runs, Belle does the normal walk through the hill/forest before arriving in the town square as the village props appear and the backdrop changes.
In the end, these changes were probably unavoidable but didn't affect the musical in any negative way. I fully and throughly enjoyed the night and it was money well spent. Now here's to hoping they bring in the other Disney Musicals soon!! Now here comes the naughty part - pirated recordings of parts of the show HA HA HA! Yes, I'm guilty 'cause I took my digital camera there and decided to take a few discreet videos of the event. I wasn't the only one there doing it as throughout the night you could hear distinct camera clicks and the occasional flash (followed by "shit!") Quality sucks big time as I didn't focus or aim because I turned off the LCD preview and blocked the eyepiece because I had to cover the surprisingly bright blinking LED light right next to it with my thumb. Oh well, enjoy Beauty & the Beast Petailng Street version.

Lastly, trivia on this musical you may or may not have know
  • 6th longest musical on broadway lasting 13 years

  • People who have played Belle include Toni Braxton, Anneliese Van der Pol (from That's so Raven), Christy Carlson Romano (Kim Possible) and Deborah Gibson

  • People who have played Gaston includes Donny Osmond and Hugh Jackman (first Australian run)

  • People who have played Lumiere include John Tartaglia (from AvenueQ and Johnny & the Sprites) and Jacob Young

  • The power ballad "A change in me" was written specifically for Toni Braxton's two performances and have since been included in every run of the play. Piano reductions of the musical also amended their publications to include the piece following the change

  • Although the song "Human again" appears in this musical and on the extended version of the animated classic, it was only reintroduced during the production of Beauty & the Beast on Ice (of which I also attended when it first ran in Stadium Negara). All three versions have edited lyrics as compared to the original score written by Howard Ashman

  • Gaston has one wardrobe change in the musical but does not in the movie/ice version

  • Phillipe's role disappears in the musical (he's the horse if you're wondering)

  • Chip loses two crucial lines from the movie - go figure them out!

  • Belle and her father are never trapped in their cellar when Gaston starts the mob

  • This play is still running in Japan and is performed in Japanese - duh!. Official webpage is here
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