Looks can be deceiving in listless Disney tour of ‘Beauty & the Beast’

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | Life+Style Editor jones@dallasvoice.com

FOR WHOM THE BELLE TROLLS | Disney’s on-the-cheap tour of ‘Beauty and the Beast’ is a tired and shopworn staging without the whiz-bang fantasy costumes it needs.

On the Boards

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST at the Winspear Opera House, 2403 Flora St. Through July 25. $25–$150. ATTPAC.org.

Beauty and the Beast was the first of the Disney two-and-a-half-hour stage adaptations of their charming 90-minute movies, so the fact it’s a bit clunky can be forgiven. What is less easy to forgive about the production at the Winspear Opera House is what a low-rent tour this turns out to be.

There’s a reason why most Disney (and now, Pixar) films are set, among elsewhere, under the sea, in toy boxes, in outer space and in the jungle: They are meant to be elaborate fantasies with eye-popping and unusual characters. If they existed in nature, we could just watch the Discovery channel.

So what better reason is there to see Beauty and the Beast than to watch dancing dishware, candelabra in a kickline and tart-mouthed teapots twirling about for two hours?

But that is not this show. Here Lumiere (Merritt David Janes), the droll French candlestick, looks like a maitre d’ with hathead carrying two flashlights. Cogsworth (Keith Kirkwood), the fussy grandfather clock butler, could be a doorman in a rundown brownstone. The spout on Mrs. Potts (Sabina Petra), the portly porcelain teakettle, resembles a glove bought at a fake Michael Jackson estate sale. Even the sets appear shopworn and cheap. There is no pow. There is no magic. Only Justin Glaser as the Beast delivers at all, and that’s just with a powerful voice on the solo “If I Can’t Love Her.”

There also isn’t much else to entertain. There’s only one real song in the first 30 minutes of the show, and few good one-liners sewing the familiar plot together. This production seems to go for kiddie appeal more than old-fashioned brassy fun. That means sluggish jokes, frantic busywork in place of dazzling choreography, a less-than-hunky Gaston (Nathaniel Hackmann).

Even the big Act 1 production number — the instantly catchy “Be Our Guest” — is underbaked. Where are the silver cake knives, the Busby Berkeley spectacle, the fireworks? Confetti is just a bit pathetti, if you ask me.

A bit disgusted, I bolted at intermission. In my mind, Belle (Liz Shivener) will forever be trapped in a mirthless castle. Now she’ll know what my evening at the Winspear was like.


School’s in for summer: ‘Drag U’

“I don’t mind hospitals,” an old joke goes, “it’s just that they’re full of sick people.” That’s kinda how I’ve always felt about Logo: I like the idea of a gay TV network, I just wish the content was good. The Big Gay Sketch Show? Puh-leez. Reruns of canceled Comedy Central shows? Can’t they do better?

Yes. And “better” goes by the name “RuPaul.”

For two seasons, RuPaul’s Drag Race has been the American Idol of Logo: The engine that keeps the channel on the TiVo queue. Drag Race is veritably brilliant reality television (its omission on the Emmy list was a travesty), with drag goddesses who are sassy and talented, bitchy and funny.

The decision to take some of the best of them from past seasons and give then a new show smacks of overkill, but I don’t care. I needs me some Ongina and Pandora Boxx.

RuPaul’s Drag U is basically Queer Eye with “professor” queens dragulating hopelessly unfeminine straight women into genuine glamorpusses. The delicious irony that men can instruct women in the female arts is unsaid but omnipresent. This is empowerment television that doesn’t rub hetero noses in it. We’re here, we’re queer, you need us to make your wives presentable. No need to thank us.

While suffering a bit from spinoff-itis, Drag U has the patented Ru insouciance plus a sweet root-for-the-underdog appeal. “Queen for a day” takes on a whole new meaning.

— Arnold Wayne Jones

Grade: B+
Premieres July 19 at 9 p.m. on Logo

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 16, 2010.