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Theatre / Beauty and the Beast

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"No passion could reach me,
No lesson could teach me.
How I could have love her and made her love me too?
If I can't love her, then who?"
Beast, "If I Can't Love Her"

Beauty and the Beast is a 1994 Screen-to-Stage Adaptation of the 1991 Disney film, notable for being the first show produced by Disney Theatrical Productions. The songs from the film written by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman remain, but with the addition of new songs with lyrics written by Menken and Tim Rice.

The show is significant to the history of both Broadway theatre and New York City. By the late 1980's Broadway, specifically Times Square, had a reputation for being a seedy and degenerate place, populated with bars, abandoned buildings and adult theaters. Disney had desire to attract families to the city, and thought that Broadway shows based on their hit musicals would be a winning deal. However, Disney insisted that New York City should clean the area up, and they then collaborated on a multi-million dollar restoration project that saw historic sites rejuvenated and the less savory businesses kicked out. Disney even bought the historic New Amsterdam Theatre to use as a venue for the show and give it a Broadway show for the first time in nearly 60 years.

The restoration took much longer than expected and debuted in 1997 with The Lion King instead, but Beauty and the Beast's debut at the Palace Theatre, combined with the area-wide rehabilitation efforts, gave dozens of companies the confidence to build locations and destinations in Times Square. Today, New York City and Times Square are seen as premier destinations for families, something the Disney's efforts to launch this show can thank. It was also the Screen-to-Stage Adaptation that caused the explosion of such adaptations to exist on Broadway today, plenty coming from Disney themselves.

The show's plot remains mostly the same from the film, with the young woman Belle finding out her father Maurice has stumbled upon a mansion of a nasty beast who wants to keep him as a prisoner. Belle offers to take his place to save her father, and she discovers a magical palace filled with enchanted objects who were once human. A new addition to this version is how the objects are slowly transforming to these objects rather than fully being them, with the last rose petal potentially causing them to lose sentience and become inanimate forever.

The show's initial run on Broadway ended after 13 years in 2007, making it one of the longest-running shows in the process. The show remains very popular with local productions, which can be chalked to the story's appeal with children and adults, familiarity with the source material and potential for race and gender-blind casting.

The stage adaptation contains examples of:

  • Adaptational Badass: Babette gets to do more in the castle fight than she did in the film. In the film, a villager grabbed her and started ripping out her feathers, necessitating a rescue from Lumiere. Some stagings have her physically grappling with the invaders and distracting one with a Honey Trap flirting so that Lumiere can get into position. She then continues to do so despite having no weapons, not even herself.
  • Adaptational Expansion: Several more songs are added to the musical, including a duet where Belle and her father sing about a promise for a new life, Gaston proposes to Belle and ''dances'' with her, and a lament from the Beast about winning Belle over, and the servants talking about their hopes about the curse being broken.
  • Adaptational Jerkass: Gaston is even worse here. He manhandles Belle during his proposal, picks her up against her wishes, and plans to keep seeing women on the side when they are married.
  • Age Lift: For pragmatic reasons, the prince is not eleven years old when he's cursed. Instead, he's an adult.
  • And I Must Scream: Some of the servants have apparently become completely non-human; it's implied that they all will become inanimate if the curse is not broken in time.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Belle lampshades this; she said she wanted adventure, and she ends up trapped in a castle to save her father's life. It's not the adventure she wanted.
  • Both Sides Have a Point: While arguing with Lumiere, Cogsworth says it was unfair that the Enchantress cursed everyone as well, especially since a few unlucky servants are turning into permanent inanimate objects. After all, they didn't move to toss out a beggar woman. Lumiere sadly replies that they could have raised the prince better so he would understand Sacred Hospitality. After all, he, Mrs. Potts, and Cogsworth are closest to their parents.
  • Excalibur in the Stone: Belle reads a book to the Beast about King Arthur pulling Excalibur out of a stone.
  • Helping Another Save Face: When Beast realizes his bestial eating habits are disturbing Belle, he attempts to use a spoon Chip offers him, but without much success. Realizing he's making a genuine effort, Belle meets him halfway by picking up her bowl and sipping from the rim, which he is able to do.
  • It's All My Fault: The servants believe that if they had raised the master better, he would not have been cursed. The Beast doesn't blame them, for what it's worth.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: More bronze at first; the Beast at first is rude to everyone and imprisons a man who says he'll leave and not trouble him, but it's noted that he doesn't blame Lumiere, Cogsworth, or Mrs. Potts for the curse. He's not so much of a jerk that he'll deny responsibility for his actions.
  • Medley Overture: The second act opening "Entr'acte & Wolf Chase," features a medley of "If I Can't Love Her," the "Transformation" theme, "No Matter What," "Be Our Guest," "Home," "If I Can't Love Her" in a different key and "Belle" briefly once the wolf chase portion starts.
  • Let's Get Dangerous!:
    • The dancing napkins at first seem to be overwhelmed by the villagers. Then towards the end of the battle, they use their can-can line to subdue them.
    • Cogsworth dives straight into battle, giving an uncharacteristic, "Tally-ho!" as he gives chase to the invaders. No one attacks his home or his friends.
    • The wardrobe, Madame de la Grande Bouche, doesn't just suit up for battle. She dons a Viking helmet, introduces herself with "Rise of the Valkyries," and lets out an operatic scream. The villager she confronts understandably runs for his life.
  • Promoted to Love Interest: Cogsworth and Madame de la Grande Bouche are portrayed as a couple, but are much more reserved about it than Lumiere and Babette the duster.
  • Really Gets Around: Gaston gallivants with all the ladies in the town. He tells them they won't stop seeing each other after he's married.
  • Stepford Smiler: It's implied that the servants are this to an extent. While they act upbeat and cheerful, several bits of dialogue hint that they are secretly scared that they're slowly turning into inanimate objects.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: In the 2021 version that toured around the UK, Gaston and the other villagers storm the Beast's castle. While we see Gaston confront the Beast, we are not shown what happened to all of the villagers who stormed the castle.