Clowes Memorial Hall at Butler, through Oct. 16.
Disney's Beauty and the Beast on stage at Clowes is an upbeat version of the original fairy tale published in France in 1740. The surreal setting for this production becomes an extension of Belle's reply to Gaston, "Some people use their imagination."
Emily Behny, a 2010 Ball State graduate portraying Belle in this new touring company, is perfectly suited for the independent, feisty, book-loving character who is instrumental in changing the Beast into a 'new, improved prince.' While Beast's physical transformation erupts from something akin to resurrection pyrotechnics, Dane Agostinis' emotional growth as Beast into Prince is well-developed with humor and pathos in his relationships with the castle's servants who were turned into "things" — a teapot, teacup, clock, lamp, chest of drawers and feather duster — by the enchantress who punished the prince for his hard heartedness.
In the tradition of all good storytelling, Disney's original 1991 film team and its succeeding live stage musical creators developed dimensional characters and a plot with many different strands. It's a cliffhanger to the end. Will Beast learn to love and thereby gain love before the last petal drops off the rose? Will Belle turn back and tend Beast? Will the nasty villagers repent? Will Gaston 'get it'? Will his sidekick LeFou survive Gaston's punchings?
Every cast member stayed focused and delivered characterization with minute details of facial and body expressions in addition to fine vocal and dancing.
If you've seen earlier stage versions starting in 1993, you'll experience a different retelling because the designers, choreographer and stage director, along with the actors, bring their own personalities forward. The show-stopping "Be Our Guest" number zips through an encyclopedia of dance genres. Overall, it's a campy version for current audiences.