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Disney's Beauty and the Beast
The popular and enthralling fairy tale is romantic and teaches a larger lesson
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   IT is one of the most beloved love stories in theater, and Disney’s Beauty and the Beast continues to enchant first-time and repeat observers of this award-winning production, now at Drury Lane Theatre through January 27.
   With music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice, and a book by Linda Woolverton, the revered musical that was adapted in 1994 from the Academy Award-winning film still charms theatergoers of all ages with beautiful elements that prove why it is a nine-time Tony Award-nominated show.
   The Drury Lane production, directed by Alan Souza and choreographed by Ron De Jesus, is one of the quintessential love-conquers-all stories, bringing together two unlikely individuals despite some unusual and seemingly overwhelming circumstances. At the beginning of the widely known story, a handsome but conceited prince refuses to help a woman whom he considers unattractive, but she points out that people shouldn’t be judged by appearances. After 
repeatedly refusing to help  her, the woman puts a curse on him and turns him into the beast, and the only way he can break the curse is to love and be loved by another.
   In a time when castles dotted the terrain, the reimaged story centers around the improbable relationship between Belle (Erica Stephan), a delightful young lady who has a particular love for books, the beast (Brandon Contreras), and heartthrob Gaston (Mark Banik), an unpleasant narcissist who has plans to marry Belle.
   The story is enhanced by the work of scenic designer Kevin Depinet, costume designer Ryan Park, lighting designer Ryan O’Gara and additional cast members, including Sophie Ackerman, Graham Carlson, Tony Carter, Nick Cosgrove, Mark David Kaplan, Catherine Smitko, Bri Sudia, Allison Sill and Paul Michael Thomson.  
   After all these years, Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, Disney’s first official Broadway musical, still delivers a powerful lesson as it relates to appearances, respect and matters of the heart.
––Walter Leavy
Erica Stephan and Brandon Contreras in Disney's Beauty and the Beast.
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Photograph by Brett Beiner