Beauty and the Beast (national tour)

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The Broadway version of Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast,” in Salt Lake City through Aug. 18, has the awkward task of taking a near-perfect 90-minute film and turning it into a viable 150-minute stage musical.

The expanded, live version is not as good as the movie — not surprisingly, it feels too long at times — but it’s easily as good as most Broadway musicals, and with more heart and humor than many.

That heart, unfortunately, is often overshadowed by the show’s flashiness. It’s a fine spectacle, with numerous big dance numbers (choreographed by Matt West) and impressive stage tricks (directed by Robert Jess Roth). It’s just a shame to use them in a show whose story and characters didn’t need that kind of gimmickry.

The film version was animated and automatically appealed to kids, so the characters didn’t have to act particularly cartoonish. Those responsible for the live version felt compelled to make it appeal to children, too, and made everything goofier to make up for the fact that it’s not animated anymore. The result is that many characters act more cartoonish in the stage version than they did in the cartoon. It’s gotten sillier and broader, with way too many instances of LeFou being smacked around.

The touring-company actors are top-notch performers. Danyelle Bossardet and Grant Norman are the title characters, with Marc G. Dalio as Gaston. Tom Aulino and David De Vries are audience favorites as Cogsworth and Lumiere. Aside from some major lighting problems Wednesday night, the show is nothing if not professional and slick.

You will get your money’s worth, and you will most definitely be entertained. Your emotions won’t be touched as strongly as with the film, but your toes will tap for days.

Should you go? Not for stuffy theater purists, or for hard-core fans of the movie, but fine for everyone else.

I saw the tour in Salt Lake City in 2000, too, but did not review it. Looking back at my notes -- yes, I'm a big enough nerd to take notes even when I'm not reviewing something -- I see that I felt the same way then as I do now about the show.

Featured in the show were Ryan and Tamera Shepherd, BYU alumni. Ryan lived on my floor in the dorms our freshman year, and was the subject of a column I wrote then -- here -- though he has probably forgotten all about it now.

While watching "Beauty and the Beast," my friend Luscious Malone and I tried to figure out what enchanted items we would be, if our castle came under a spell. We decided since she loves the life of leisure and sleeping, she would become a bed. Since I watch too much TV and movies, I would become a VCR. What would you become? It's a fun game!

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