Tale As Old As Time – Beauty and the Beast

Speaking of time… where has it gone? We know, it’s been ages since we’ve updated here. Summer is here, and summer is busy with tons of festivals and shows. While that does give us plenty of content to write about, these CityGirls just don’t seem to have the time to write it. But we’re trying to fix that, so hang in there.

This past Friday was a hot one, like much of this summer has been so far. Before we could embark on our theatrical date, we thought it was best to hydrate, so we found a nice comfy spot on the patio at the Hot House Cafe for a few cold bevies and some food. A huge thank you goes out to Mike at Hot House Cafe for being so accommodating, including finding and bringing us a second umbrella to cast more shade as the sun shifted. Thank you sir! Their Summerlicious menu and cold ones were just what we needed to start the night off right.

A little too right, maybe, as we found ourselves running a little behind schedule and at risk of missing the 7:30 curtain call at the Four Seasons Centre for Dancap’s production of Beauty and the Beast. We had to sprint up University Ave. and arrived just as they were about to close the doors – talk about timing! 

Emily Behny does justice to Belle, the headstrong damsel not in distress. With a dreamy wonderment and drive for something more than that provincial town, Behny shows a genuine wide-eyed hopefulness and maintains a pleasant politeness even in the worst of scenarios, making you question why she has so much trouble fitting in.

Belle’s devoted aficionado Gaston, on the other hand, lacks any politeness whatsoever and is swimming in chauvinistic slime. But Matt Farcher embraces that slime and turns an otherwise horrifying character into one of the most entertaining in the entire play. Each arrogant, self indulged number is highly over-compensated to the point that you can’t help but love every emphasized muscle flex and sly, knowing grin. While we may share Belle’s distaste in him as a suitor, we wouldn’t mind clinking beer glasses with him once or twice.

But it’s once Belle reaches the castle that the magic of the story really comes alive, along with the dishes and flatwear. The comedic duo Cogsworth (James May) and Lumiere (Michael Haller) fulfill the dutiful banter, keeping the otherwise dark castle light and bright, while Mrs. Potts (Julia Louise Hossak) and Madam de la Grande Bouche (Jen Bechter) round out the team of optimistic humans-turn-objects who try to keep the temperament of the Beast (Dane Agostinis) at bay. An exaggerated temperament that often exceeded the realistic level of anger to create a sort of silliness that made the little kids in the audience giggle instead of cry. 

Watching Belle and the Beast grow closer over soup and books was heart warming in its own right and the dynamic between Behny and Agostinis created a similar warmth during those moments. The playful exchanges Agostinis offers as he learns his manners and considers someone other than himself not only creates a change in Belle, but the audience as well.

Probably the most anticipated number of the night was Lumiere’s “Be Our Guest” dinner charade. While Haller pulled out all the stops to recreate the memorable, flashy scene from the Disney movie, it’s hard to live up to animation and the numbers seemed to all a little flat. The colours and costumes were subpar and the choreographed number at times seemed forced and messy instead of magically pristine. But of course, there’s only so much you can do with limited space and cast.

The classic tale of the beauty falling in love with the beast has been a childhood favourite that was endlessly watched with songs known by heart, so when Dancap brought the production to Toronto, we knew we had to see it. With this being Dancap’s second last production before closing their doors at the end of the month (Million Dollar Quartet wraps on July 29), you should too.

images from the official website