New Disney Cruise Lines Beauty and the Beast Show

Earlier today, Disney Cruise Lines shared a sneak preview of their new Beauty and the Beast show on Facebook. Performances of the show started on the Disney Dream ship this past Monday. Beauty and the Beast has already had tons of stage adaptations including a pretty long run on Broadway a few years after the 1991 movie came out. It also had a smaller stage show at the theme park formerly known as MGM Studios in Florida. Considering everything that came before it, the new show runs the risk of coming off as a tired rehash. Fortunately, it introduces a new aesthetic based heavily on the 2017 live-action remake that prevents it from feeling like a copycat of its former incarnations. The new production also uses the aesthetic of cogs and gears from Maurice's music boxes to transition between scenes.

Broadway shows generally have a run time of two and a half hours, while theme park shows are closer to a half-hour or forty-five minutes. Cruise shows lie somewhere in the middle, so this will most likely run a little over an hour. That gives it less time for original songs, so it seems like they'll just be copying the 2017 movie in that regard. The Tangled show from the Disney Magic ship, on the other hand, has several original numbers including a very entertaining scene that portrays Rapunzel exploring the village for the first time with Flynn. The original song "When She Returns" was used for the online sneak peek of the Tangled show, while today's Beauty and the Beast sneak peek features two songs we're already very familiar with, "Gaston" and "Be Our Guest," meaning this stage show will not likely have much original content.

As far as costumes go, the ones in this show are certainly different from other stage productions of Beauty and the Beast, but that doesn't mean better. I've been pretty vocal about my issues with Disney's live-action remake, and I was particularly underwhelmed by the costumes. Belle's village dress went from a Victorian peasant frock to a patchwork quilt, and her iconic ballgown became a highlighter-colored prom dress from a discount store. Such sloppy designs translate even worse to the stage because some of the people in the audience would be sitting right up front, so detail is key. I'm also not a fan of Belle's modern hairstyle and crisp bangs that give off more of a '90s look than a Victorian-era feel. Just look below at how impressive the original Broadway version of the gown was. It's a terrible shame that this design will be all but forgotten thanks to Emma Watson's strict costume restrictions, which appear to have an even longer-lasting impact that I initially thought.

Another difference between the cruise version and the Broadway version is that the cruise has puppeteers playing the enchanted objects, while the Broadway show had actors dressed up as the actual objects, leaving the audience to use their suspension of disbelief to imagine them smaller. The preview of the cruise show features puppeteers dressed as human versions of the objects holding puppets that match the look of the 2017 remake. The puppets seem rather stiff, which I suppose makes sense because they're supposed to be objects, but the actors themselves are more animated and energetic, making it harder for the audience to suspend their disbelief and focus on the objects instead of the actors  It's similar to the way Iago was portrayed in the former Disney's California Adventure show, Aladdin: A Musical Spectacular. In that version, Iago's puppet had a much wider range of motion, and his actor was given a costume that blends into the background, so it worked better than this. The new "Be Our Guest" sequence feels awkward in other ways as full-sized actors dressed as plates and utensils try to dance around on a regular-sized table.

If I had to choose between seeing the Disney Magic's Tangled show and the Disney Dream's new Beauty and the Beast show live, I'd go with Tangled for several reasons. For one, it's a newer movie, which means Disney doesn't have to stoop to desperate attempts at originality to separate it from previous stage versions. I also prefer the costumes in Tangled. They look more like they come from the era in which the film is supposed to take place, and Rapunzel doesn't have anachronistic bangs accompanying her very long hair. Plus, it features three new songs written by the legendary Alan Menken. In contrast, the Beauty and the Beast show features the mediocre songs that were tacked into the live-action movie to try to mask the fact that Emma Watson can't sing. I appreciate that Disney gave us the opportunity to watch this preview and that they are trying to do something with the show than before, but they really need to give it a rest and let something newer have a turn on the stage.


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