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Production is more beautiful than beastly

Disney's Beauty and the Beast

Through Sunday

Bass Hall, Fourth and Calhoun streets, Fort Worth

7:30 Thursday; 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday; and 7 p.m. Sunday

$33-$82.50

817-212-4280; www.basshall.com


Posted 8:20am on Thursday, Apr. 21, 2011

In good theater, presentation can be everything.

That is certainly the case with Disney's Beauty and the Beast, the touring production that opened at Bass Hall on Tuesday night. The whole package is so gorgeously wrapped that the few failings can pass almost unnoticed.

The scenic design (by Stanley A. Meyer) and lighting (by Natasha Katz) are nothing short of stunning. Various scrims and set pieces are employed to change time and place with amazingly fluid and invisible ease.

The costumes (by Ann Hould-Ward) are as bright and shiny as the sets and props. And there are also a couple of pretty nifty scenes that use oversize puppets.

But, of course, the biggest visual moment in this show is always the Beast's transition to a handsome prince shortly before the final curtain. And, in this production, that scene is every bit as way cool as it should be.

This show's beauty is, however, more than skin deep. There are plenty of strong performances. But it is a little disappointing that not all the major players are as complete as the overall production.

The one exception is Logan Denninghoff, as the bloated egotist (and Belle suitor) Gaston. His overly perfect American musical theater enunciation is ideal for the role, as is his cartoonish physicality. But his greatest strength is his booming baritone. He sings circles around the rest of the cast.

Dane Agostinis, as the Beast, falls short in his vocalizing. But he does great things with his character. His Beast is certainly the funniest I have seen.

Emily Behny, as Belle, is more problematic.

She has a fine voice and was well-received by a nearly full house Tuesday. But she does not have the bearing for the part. In look and sound, she seems more suited to put on Dorothy's red shoes in The Wizard of Oz.

There is little to quibble about in the supporting roles. Erin Elizabeth Coors is miscast as Babette, for example. But several of the other smaller roles -- most notably Andrew Kruep, as Gaston's buffoonish sidekick Lefou, and Julia Louise Hosack, as Mrs. Potts -- are exceptionally well-rendered.

The efforts of director Rob Roth and choreographer Matt West glitter most in the show's big production numbers, especially Gaston and Be Our Guest.

So this is not a perfect show (at 21/2 hours, it is also too long). But this production is so polished, fast-moving and eye-popping that you are likely to find it much more beautiful than beastly.

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