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Beauty and the Beast

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Beauty and the Beast, Cadillac Palace Theatre. Now touring for the third time since its 1994 Broadway debut, this lavish musical re-creates fairly faithfully the 1991 Academy Award-winning movie. New songs with lyrics by Tim Rice are bland compared with the original slyly witty Howard Ashman tunes, but combined with Linda Woolverton's sensitive rewriting of the story, they provide a depth the movie lacked. Impressive special effects--a hurtling fireball, stunning explosions, midair transformations--give this kid-oriented show plenty of razzle-dazzle, and Matt West's choreography for forks, spoons, and other kitchen implements during "Be Our Guest" is marvelous. Stanley A. Meyer's rotating sets create a dark, mystical atmosphere, and costume designer Ann Hould-Ward works wonders, especially with Lumiere, who seems to have burning candles at the ends of his arms; the teacup Chip is eerily bodyless. Even better, the enchanted objects become more objectlike over time, which adds a sense of urgency: if the Beast doesn't fall in love--and make someone love him in return--a castle full of people will suffer.

Though Danyelle Bossardet's Belle is as cheerfully blank as a cartoon, Grant Norman gracefully humanizes the Beast from the beginning. Marc G. Dalio nails the posing muscle boy Gaston, and David de Vries brings a seductive edge to Lumiere, the Don Juan of candlesticks. The biggest charmer is Monica M. Wemmit, however, as a diva-turned-armoire with the heart of a chorine.

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