I’d like to think I’m a bit of a reverse snob when it comes to theatre – I overlook the Citadel in favour of community companies like Shadow and Teatro la Quindicina. Of course, the fact that I am an admitted cheapskate when it comes to ticket prices also has something to do with this, and the only reason I have even set foot in the theatre (to see A Christmas Carol), was actually because the tickets were purchased by my friends. So when Dickson invited me to see Beauty and the Beast with tickets he had bid for in a charity auction at work, I jumped at the chance to “see what I was missing.”
While waiting for the show to begin, I did a bit of local celebrity spotting. It seemed to be media night, as the Journal’s Liz Nicholls, the Sun/CBC’s Colin McLean, Global’s Lorraine Mansbridge and Edmonton Opera’s Artistic Director were all on hand (my question – did Nicholls’ mid-centre seats represent her relative review power? McLean was seated to the far left of the stage, quite the snub, in my opinion). The house was filled with a fair number of children – and after seeing the show (ignoring the expense), I could see why – it is a great way to expose young children to the spectacle and possibilities of theatre.
I loved the cartoon-tinged set, and was amazed at what they were able to do with such a small space. The costumes were impressive for the most part (the gold and silver theme was rich, eye-catching, and coupled with a reliance on yellow lighting tones, gave the scenes a necessary mystical quality about them), with my favorite of the household items being the functional wardrobe and the napkins. I had to wonder, however, about the choice to dress Belle in an oval-shaped hoop dress as opposed to a more flowing ensemble in the last half. I would have preferred a gown that moved with her and the Beast while they danced – another mainstay of fairytale romance sequences.
The songs were catchy (I wanted to run home and listen to whatever version of “Beauty and the Beast” I could get my hands on), and while I agree that the Citadel should be lauded for the incredible feat of “Be Our Guest”, I was actually most drawn to “Gaston”, if not only because I was absolutely craving a dance number by then. The Beast’s solo, “If I Can’t Love Her” was a weak way to end the first act, but plot-wise, it did make sense. And while I understand the constraints of time (especially with a children’s production), the jump to an immediate love connection in “Something There” in the opening of Act 2 was much too sudden.
The cast as a whole had excellent comic timing, but more than that, they seemed to have a great time with the play. Standouts: Kharytia Bilash as Belle (fabulous voice and spunk to boot!), John Ullyatt as a hilariously sexual Lumiere, Sean Hauk as a hyperbolized Gaston, and last but not least, the very agile and acrobatic Colin Heath as LeFou.
Beyond the ticket prices, going to a show is more than a stand alone experience for me. I really do enjoy following the theatre community in Edmonton: knowing which playwrights are up-and-coming, getting a feel for the flavour of a theatre company, and most of all, having the privilege to see the same consistent talents on stage. The majority of the Citadel’s Mainstage cast are brought in from other cities, and while I understand the need to do this, I don’t think I could ever build a “rapport” with the Citadel if the faces and names are revolving on a continuous basis.
So while I enjoyed the show, unless someone extends a free invitation to me again, I doubt I will be back at the Citadel in the near future.