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Teen critic Julliard on ‘Beauty and the Beast’: New twists

Eleven Charlotte-area high school students are competing in the new theater criticism category of the Blumey Awards, the Blumenthal Performing Arts’ annual musical theater awards program (read more about that here .) Each student writes three reviews; the following is one entry:

By Michael Julliard

We all know the story: beautiful girl is misunderstood, she meets horrible beast, she discovers love and they all live happily ever after.

But is there something more to the childhood classic that is “Beauty and the Beast?” As I prepared myself for my first review, I found the answer to that question was an unadulterated “yes.” Dating all the way back to the 18th century, this well-renowned show has a rich history of revivals, renditions and rewriting. The original story comes from the brilliant minds of two women: Madame Gabrielle de Villeneuve and her successor, Madame le Prince de Beaumont. Villeneuve crafted the story as a novella intended for sophisticated audiences. Appropriately, Villeneuve’s original writes in depth of the little-known parts of the story, such as the warring between the fairies, the parentage of Belle and the prince and the reason behind the infamous curse. Prince revived the story 16 years later as a short story meant specifically for little ears. The efforts of the two genius women meshed to create the story of destiny, independence and true love that is cherished today worldwide.

Filled with a new outlook on the production, I rolled up to the curb of Kings Mountain High School on Feb. 23 with pen and pad in hand as well as a healthy amount of butterflies. After finding my seat, the lights dimmed and my attention was drawn to the six-person orchestra, four of whom were students. Perhaps my previous encounters with student orchestras made me nervous for them, yet I was astounded when I closed my eyes; I was deceived into thinking that KMHS hired a legitimate 40-person symphony!

Exquisite use of silhouette and beautiful costumes accounted for a stunning prologue entrance to the show. All throughout the production, I encountered new twists of the story I had not before considered. This, for the most part, was exactly what I was hoping KMHS would show me. Using unique transformation of the Beast, character re-development of Lumière and Cogsworth and fantastic costume, set and light designers, the director of this production used his resources to put together a fun story with a new outlook.

The stage was huge and the set for the indoor scenes was spectacular, however set design for the outdoor scenes appeared to have been overlooked. Furthermore, I would have liked less dead space in the music within the dialogue of the numbers. As stunningly as the orchestra performed, watching an actor finish their scene and exchange looks of grief or compassion as they wait for the correct vamp to cue them in was very awkward for this viewer. A nice tangy tempo or some stage business could easily clean that up.

I do hope that this article has served its purpose. And, of course, you are free to disagree with me. These are, in fact, the opinions of just one person. For as Belle taught us, there lies so much more outside of the world we know. I offer only my thoughts, praise and observations to those willing to listen.

This article is part of the Charlotte Arts Journalism Alliance (a consortium of local media dedicated to writing about the arts) and the Blumenthal Student Critic Program.

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The Charlotte Observer welcomes your comments on news of the day. The more voices engaged in conversation, the better for us all, but do keep it civil. Please refrain from profanity, obscenity, spam, name-calling or attacking others for their views.

Have a news tip? You can send it to a local news editor; email local@charlotteobserver.com to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Charlotte Observer.

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