A couple days ago I saw my favorite musical, Beauty and the Beast, for the fourth time. The first time was on Broadway in 1999, the second was at the Academy of Music in Philadelphia, followed by a production at the Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia several years later. This time, once again, I returned to the Academy of Music. As expected, it was as brilliant and spine-chillingly good as the previous three times I’ve seen it. But let me take a minute to explain why I love this musical so much.
I’ve seen many musicals throughout my life because my parents have afforded me with the opportunity to do so. My first musical was Hello, Dolly! with Carol Channing and I’ve seen countless shows since then, including Evita, Man of La Mancha, Wicked, Annie, Kinky Boots, and numerous others. They’ve all been terrific, but Beauty and the Beast moves me in ways the others don’t.
Why is this the case? There’s a few reasons. First, I absolutely loved the Disney film that inspired this musical, so seeing it come to life on the stage conjures up fond memories and wraps me in a warm blanket of nostalgia. It’s also worth noting that Angela Lansbury sang the theme song for the Disney film and I’m a huge fan of hers – as a matter of fact, I met her backstage last year following a performance of Blithe Spirit – so perhaps this musical also reminds me, in a subconscious way, of my love for her work too. But most of all, every single one of the songs from this show is magnificent. None of them are stinkers. All of them are either excellent or spectacular, not something every musical can claim.
Don’t believe me? Watch the following montage from the 1994 Tony Awards, the year Beauty and the Beast debuted on Broadway:
My favorite song, by far, from the show is “If I Can’t Love Her.” It’s a spectacular ballad sung by the Beast that closes out the first act, and it’s a showstopper. Check it out:
As you can see from the photo above, I was just four rows from the stage for Beauty and the Beast this time and dead center. It was definitely the best view I’ve ever had for the show, and it was also the best production. The set design, acting and singing were all top-notch and the ticket prices were a fraction of what you’d pay to see it in New York City. It was also my girlfriend’s first time seeing the show, so it was exciting for me to see how she reacted to the musical. As I anticipated, she thought it was terrific and had a great time.
If you have the opportunity to see Beauty and the Beast, do so. Whether or not you’ve seen the Disney film is irrelevant. As long as you’re someone who enjoys a good love story and phenomenal music, you’ll leave the theater smiling from ear to ear. And I bet you’ll be singing several of the songs to yourself for days to come.