Tag Archives: Disney

Beauty and the Beast, Live in 3D

I saw 3D Theatricals’ production of Beauty and the Beast this weekend and really enjoyed it. It was much better than the stripped-down touring version we saw in 2010. Bigger cast, bigger orchestra, more elaborate costumes and sets, and they didn’t cut any of the songs (including the one I kind of wish they had).

Great performances from the leads. Belle was a little more brassy than I’m used to, but it worked. The scenes with her and Maurice at the beginning had a nice geeky-family-hanging-out feel to them. Gaston’s performance actually reminded me a lot of Captain Hammer.

It was interesting to see how they worked around the lack of an understudy for Lumiere. They said he (and the actor playing Chip) had been delayed by a car accident, which may have been one he was involved in, or may have been the multi-car fatal collision and fire that shut down the 5 freeway for the whole day. They pulled an actor from the ensemble who had never rehearsed the part, and while he knew a lot of it, they still had to work around things like the dance steps in “Be Our Guest.” (Belle stepped in and offered to lead.) The regular actor made it there before act two and stepped back into the role.

Incidentally: Chip is a thankless part. You have to sit inside a cart wearing a giant teacup on your head the entire time you’re on stage. Though I’m impressed at what it takes to play Mrs. Potts: You need to hold one arm up the entire time (or else wear a very unbalanced costume on your shoulder, which I can imagine messing up your back), and push that cart around one-handed, with choreography. I hope directors/costumers are willing to adapt the costume for the actress’ dominant hand.

Anyway, it was a good production, and an interesting live-theater snafu. Sadly, I was the only one flu-less enough to go, and it was the last weekend of a short run. One of these days!

Belle’s Dreams of Adventure

It never occurred to me in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast that Belle was giving up her dreams of adventure in the great wide somewhere to be with the Prince Formerly Known as Beast. She gives them up at the beginning of the story to save her father, but by the end, what’s she done?

  • Joined a society of transformed humans in an enchanted castle.
  • Fought wolves in a snowstorm.
  • Held her own against a ferocious Beast and changed him.
  • Saved her father’s life and freedom, and the life of the Beast.
  • Escaped that poor provincial town (and that boorish, brainless Gaston)

She’s had a big adventure…and now that the prince is human again and she’s cast her lot in with him, she has the resources and freedom to have more.

That’s why I can’t stand “A Change in Me,” the song that was added to the stage musical a few years in. It takes a criticism that I always thought was unfair — that she’s OK with giving up her dreams to be with a guy — and makes it canon.

I Finally Saw Frozen / Tangled Musical Thoughts

I finally saw Frozen last week. Somehow I managed to avoid spoilers, detailed critiques (I’d file them away to read once I’d seen the movie), or even — believe it or not — hearing “Let it Go” before I had a chance to watch the scene and get the full context.

It was a lot of fun, very energetic, and I liked the music. For a lot of reasons, I couldn’t help but think of Tangled, and found myself tracking down both soundtracks.

FrozenI’m not sure which was a bigger surprise: That Kristen Bell can actually hold her own opposite Idina Menzel, or that one of the songwriters of Avenue Q won an Oscar for a Disney movie. Seriously: I’d forgotten the composers’ names, and I was trying to place the style while watching. Somewhere in the first half hour, something reminded me of Avenue Q, and I thought, “Nah, couldn’t be” and moved on. Now, I can’t unhear similarities.

After listening to the songs from both Tangled and Frozen a lot over the past week, I feel like Alan Menken’s score from Tangled is better overall, and more consistent, but the song list is very sparse and very reprise-heavy. Frozen is much more uneven, but the stand-outs are great, and much more catchy.

I’m going to be weird for a moment and say that the most perfect song in the movie is “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?” It captures Anna’s determination and optimism in the face of the sisters’ disintegrating relationship and their lonely circumstances, and there’s not a moment of awkwardness in the whole thing (except where it’s intentionally adorable).

“For the First time in Forever” and “Let it Go” are 90% fantastic. The former has a few clunker moments, and the latter IMO could have done with just one more pass-through on the lyrics. I love the way the performance in the movie starts out buttoned-up, then releases all that tension from the opening verse, and then turns into an anthem of self-discovery. And on second viewing, the links between the two songs add an interesting layer.

The other songs are serviceable, but nothing really stands out.

TangledGoing back to Tangled, “When Will My Life Begin?” and “Mother Knows Best” are solid, and “I See the Light” is a beautiful mix of a madrigal sound on the verses with a more modern, sweeping chorus. The music is gorgeous, including the score (which is also fun to listen to for echoes of other Menken Disney scores), but the lyrics don’t have quite the same zing that the better lyrics in Frozen do (though they’re considerably better than the low points).

Still, I found myself compelled to learn the lyrics to “I See the Light,” partly to have something more complete running through my head, and partly for the lullaby value. (I do have a three-year-old, after all.)

Update: A year later, a lot of the songs from both movies have grown on me. I’ve come to appreciate the lyrics in Tangled more, particularly the wordplay in “I’ve Got a Dream” (though the tune is basically “She’ll Be Coming ‘Round the Mountain”), the exaggeration in “Mother Knows Best” and the dissonance in “When Will My Life Begin.” And while I still think Tangled has a better score overall than Frozen, I can hear how well it’s constructed now. A lot of the tracks bring to mind the scenes immediately on hearing them, and everything is connected musically.

“I See the Light” did, in fact, become one of my go-to lullaby songs last year. After a while I started to regret it, when he began singing shrilly off-key fragments of songs in nonsense syllables at the top of his lungs all day, but thankfully he’s since cut down on frequency, learned to sing on-key and control his volume, learned more than just two lines of each song and started actually singing words. When he wants to. He still drops into the other mode of “singing” from time to time, but it’s not constant anymore.