COURTESY PHOTOHilary Maiberger

‘Beauty and the Beast’ lightens up the holidays

It’s not quite a tale as old as time – it debuted as an animated motion picture in 1991 and on Broadway in 1994 – but the multi-award-winning “Disney’s Beauty and the Beast” holds up nicely after a couple of decades.

Directed by Rob Roth and choreographed by Matt West, the touring stage version of the production (admittedly, based on an 18th century French fairy tale, with a clever book by Linda Woolverton) at the Curran Theatre is perfect, holiday-time family entertainment. At Saturday’s press opening, little girls dressed in sparkles dotted the audience, a welcome sight: young people at the theater.

Of course, a welcoming feeling permeates the show, and it characterizes the big Act 1 number, “Be Our Guest” in which the cursed castle’s enchanted objects pull out the stops to serve their prisoner, Belle, the ultimate dinner.

The energetic ensemble, dressed as spoons, forks, knives and plates, gives their all to the rousing tune, one among many charmers in the famed score by Alan Menken, Howard Ashman and Tim Rice. Still the number seems slightly downsized, not quite as dazzling as the over-the-top movie version. Its highlight is the flipping welcome mat, danced with gusto by the acrobatic Tony D’Alelio.

The rest of the show, from the colorful sets to the now iconic costumes (Lumiere the candelabra, Cogsworth the Clock, Mrs. Potts the teapot) is a delight from start to finish.

The particularly strong lead actors have gorgeous voices and a natural, breezy stage presence.

Hilary Maiberger, a veteran of Disney heroine roles, is an ideal Belle, independent and smart, yet vulnerable. Her voice is clear as a bell, as is Kristin Stewart, who, as Mrs. Potts, does a lovely job singing the show’s sweet and romantic title tune.

Darick Pead dons the Beast costume with style (and sounds great, too). Tim Rogan plays the wonderfully egotistical Gaston to the hilt, as do the actors making the inanimate objects so very human: Hassan Nazari-Robati as Lumiere, James May as Cogsworth, Stephanie Moskal as feather duster Babette and Roxy York as wardrobe Madame de la Grande Bouche.

Puppeteer extraordinaire Basil Twist adds his own inimitable touch of magic, with his creations, from the witch who casts the spell turning the prince into a beast, to the menacing wolves haunting the forest.

lkatz@sfexaminer.com

REVIEW

Disney’s Beauty and the Beast

Where: Curran Theatre, Geary St., S.F.

When: 2 p.m. Thursdays, 2 and 7:30 p.m. most Fridays-Saturdays, noon and 5:30 p.m. Sundays; closes Jan 5

Tickets: $45 to $160

Contact: (888) 746-1799, www.shnsf.com

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