In 1991, Beauty and the Beast was the second film in the Disney animated musical renaissance, and then only three years later it became the first Disney property to become a Broadway musical. Of all the incarnations of said property, the Broadway version is the strongest musically, mainly because composer Howard Menken keenly appreciated the differences between the various mediums, and, accordingly wrote a dozen or so extra songs specifically for the stage version, all of which are as good as the four classic numbers in the animated original. If the 2017 live action adaptation is a disappointment, it’s because they missed a great bit in ignoring all those wonderful Broadway songs just crying out to be included. (In fact, when I watch either of the movie versions, they both seem strangely incomplete – the Beast doesn’t even get so much as a single solo number. Make your blood boil, well I should say!) As everyone knows, the piece itself is a familiar fairy tale set in a magic castle with enchanted silverware (which somehow seems very French) and is often classified with the long line of Disney “Princess” stories, but enlivened, in all of its incarnations, with a considerable amount of Broadway pizazz, vaudeville shtick, and color and spectacle galore. Yet underneath, it’s a very moving tale of transformation, redemption, and salvation, a tale in which both love and humanity itself are not qualities to be taken for granted, but which must be earned and bestowed upon the worthy.
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