Does it even matter what I say about the return of NETworks' touring production of Disney's Beauty and the Beast? Little girls will still show up in Belle costumes and will look adorable, all the while quietly absorbing the message that, through the power of love, they can totally change that guy with the nasty temper. Adults will cheer its "Be Our Guest" cutlery kickline, and wake up the next morning with its chorus still ringing through their skulls, trapped like Belle, while somewhere out there, a better, more innovative family musical withers and dies for lack of funding.
With a 13-year Broadway stint and more than 35 million already served (to say nothing of the movie tickets, videos, DVD and, downloads purchased since the film's 1991 debut), Beauty and the Beast certainly has its fans. This production uses all the show's Alan Menken/Howard Ashman/Tim Rice original music and Linda Woolverton's uninspired filler of a script. It also reunites the show's original crew, from director Rob Roth to choreographer Matt West, costumer Ann Hould-Ward, lighting designer Natasha Katz - who, in reworking her design for the tour, decided muddy means moody - and set designer Stanley Meyer. And Meyer's designs may well be the production's true stars.