Beauty and the Beast Live!: A 30th Celebration
The 30th Anniversary special of the Disney animated musical, Beauty and the Beast, with live performances intermixed with the edited scenes from the original movie.
Spoiler Level: None
In late 1991 Disney released the animated musical movie, Beauty and the Beast. From the moment I heard the title song sung by one of my all-time favorite actresses, Angela Landsbury, I was enthralled and to this day, this is my all-time favorite Disney film. It was the first animated film in the history of the Oscars to receive a “Best Picture” nomination. The score is by Alan Menken and Lyrics by Howard Ashman (who passed away from AIDS before the movie was released). The film was one of the first animated Disney productions to make the move from big screen to live action with a successful run on Broadway, and the live musical has now been produced all over the world. So, it is no wonder that a movie with such a pedigree garnered a special celebrating its 30th anniversary.
The plot, if you haven’t had a chance to watch the original or see a live production over the last 30 years, is standard. To save her father from a lifetime of imprisonment by the Beast (Josh Groban) who lives in an enchanted castle, Belle (H.E.R.) trades her freedom for her father’s. But after the fearsome creature saves her life, she realizes that there is more to him than meets the eye. The two get to know each other and begin to fall in love, but just when all is going well, Belle learns her father is dying and only she can save him. The Beast, having felt love for the first time, releases her condemning himself to never breaking the enchantment that curses the castle and all its residents. But when the town folk learn about the Beast’s existence from Belle, they go on a rampage to track him down and kill him. Belle, being in love with the Beast rushes to save his life.
Originally airing on ABC on Thursday, December 15th it began streaming the next day on Disney+. The cast is star studded, in addition to H.E.R. as Belle and Josh Groban as the Beast we see Joshua Henry as Gaston, Martin Short as Lumiere, David Alan Grier as Cogsworth, Shania Twain as Mrs. Potts, and Rita Moreno narrating the special segments on the history of the production. The television special interweaves reimagined live action sequences with an edited version of the original movie. The songs were beautifully sung by the new cast members with some of the original cast making cameo appearances. The musical talent of the cast really is amazing, the sets are breathtaking and wonderfully imaginative, relating the original drawings and animations to the live action musical numbers. The costumes are spot on and the background information about the original production is inspiring and educational. The addition of the dance sequences symbolizing the petals dropping off the roles were beautifully choreographed and stunningly executed. Likewise, the scenes with the wolves were well thought out and performed with gorgeous costumes and set pieces emphasizing the dancing acrobatic talents of the cast.
This special had a lot going for it and as much as I enjoyed it, it wasn’t perfect. The way the original film was edited and the historical interjections, although interesting, interrupted the normal flow of the story making it so much harder to connect with the characters. H.E.R. sang the songs brilliantly and for the most part nailed the character, but there was an innocence that was lost, with an almost cocky underlying attitude that made it harder to see her as the ingénue. Similarly, Shania Twain does very well when singing, but her acting was less to be desired and she kept moving her hands in a funny way that was distracting. The beast costume was more of a mechanical suit, which was very intricate and well crafted, but did not allow for much expression of emotion visually. That being said, Josh Groban was the perfect choice for the Beast and does an amazing job. Martin Short does a great rendition of “Be Our Guest”, but the visuals in that number were underwhelming and the overall comic timing was just a bit off on his dialogue with Cogsworth seeming almost improvised at times, which I think Martin Short could probably handle, but I am not so sure about David Alan Grier. The one actor who nailed it in every aspect was Joshua Henry’s Gaston. Great voice, impressive build, stunningly handsome and he can act! This should be no big surprise since he has starred on Broadway in several productions, winning awards and being nominated at least a couple times for a Tony.
Did I get “the feels” while watching the production…Yes! I even cried during the wonderful tribute to the amazing Angela Lansbury who passed away earlier this year as Shania sang the title song being accompanied by the composer himself, Alan Menken. And all the issues I have with the special are minor. This production did a great job paying tribute to my personal favorite animated movie.
A wildly imaginative way of celebrating the 30th Anniversary of one of the best animated films in history, intermixing live action sequences with the original scenes.
Beauty and the Beast Live!: A 30th Anniversary Celebration
- Writing - 9/109/10
- Storyline - 10/1010/10
- Acting - 9/109/10
- Music - 10/1010/10
- Production - 10/1010/10
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