By Kyle Poluyko

NETworks Presentations North American touring production of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, a Broadway musical hit, opened a thrilling two-performance return engagement at the Community Auditorium Tuesday evening to thunderous applause and an earnest standing ovation.  The show, which played to New York audiences for nearly ten years and has been seen by millions across the globe, remains a rich, vibrant spectacle punctuated by indelible characters and an endearing story.

Ryan Everett Wood is a vain prince, transformed into the Beast by an old beggar woman when he refuses to see that true beauty lies within.  Jillian Butterfield is Belle who the Beast encounters ten years on and for whom he begins to develop feelings. He has competition, though, in Gaston (Cameron Bond), the muscular, egotistical town hero.  Wood delivers a strongly balanced performance as the Beast, intimidating and demanding then later tender and yearning.  Butterfield as Belle is delightfully sweet yet gives her character fierce determination.  As Gaston, the delight in Bond’s performance is the charm he sincerely exudes though selfishly oblivious to anyone but himself.

The cast features a number of charming supporting characters, but perhaps none more captivating than Patrick Pevehouse as Lumiere, the debonair and whimsical candelabra.  A superb ensemble, arresting in every aspect of their united feat, solidify the extravagance of this show’s spectacle.  Sadly, aside from full production numbers, the individual performances are often restricted due to a soft sound quality which frequently failed to allow both spoken dialogue and beautiful singing voices to soar throughout the acoustically lavish auditorium.

Much of the original creative team that brought Beauty and the Beast to the Broadway stage recreated the show for this tour.  Stanley Meyer’s detailed and versatile scenic design is vibrant and colour-rich, bountifully enhanced by a sparkling and striking lighting design by Natasha Katz.  Strong and rich, too, are the costumes by Ann Hould-Ward which range from the simple and elegant to the bold and extravagant.  The choreography by Matt West is adventurous and exciting as evidenced in full company numbers complete with acrobatics and dazzling synchronicity.  Rob Roth’s Tony-nominated direction ingeniously joins these intricate and fantastic elements in a satisfying theatrical event that remains, as is sung in the title song, a tale old as time.

NETworks Presentations North American tour of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast returned to the Community Auditorium for a two-performance engagement February 24 and 25.