Be their guest: Beauty and the Beast offers fairy-tale ending to Rainbow season

Swooningly romantic, Rainbow Stage’s latest musical production, Beauty and the Beast, is a fairy tale vision replete with grand gestures, comic book villains and the transformative power of love.

All-Manitoba cast hits the right notes with relatively faithful Broadway version of animated feature film

Fans of Beauty and the Beast won't be disappointed by Stephanie Sy and the rest of the Rainbow Stage company's work in Be Our Guest. (Robert Tinker)

Swooningly romantic, Rainbow Stage's latest musical production, Beauty and the Beast, is a fairy tale vision replete with grand gestures, comic book villains and the transformative power of love.

Based on the 1991 animated feature, the Broadway version of Beauty and the Beast remains relatively faithful to the original.

In addition to the original music, six new songs were added. The main characters have their storylines expanded and, most intriguingly, the household staff changes from servants who have already been transformed into household objects to staff members who are gradually and horrifyingly watching themselves lose their humanity. It's a cruel twist that suits the story well.

A fable for lovers of literature, Beauty and the Beast tells the tale of Belle, a provincial lass shunned by her neighbours for her odd, bookish ways.

In an act of pure selflessness, Belle gives herself over to a beastly captor in order to release her father from captivity. Unknown to Belle, the Beast is a spell-bound prince who must learn how to love and be loved in order to free himself and his servants from a terrible enchantment.

This Winnipeg production is particularly blessed with a strong array of excellent performers in its all-Manitoba cast.

Stephanie Sy's Belle rings beautiful and true. She is a gorgeous singer and brings an enormous amount of energy and attitude to her performance that really helps to drive the momentum of the show forward. When Belle appears in her golden gown to dine with the Beast, she is grace and beauty.

Timothy Gledhill as the Beast is charming. He is sweet and funny and a little bit cranky. It is a delight to watch him try to eat soup like a gentleman, and it's hard not to fall in love with him as he mournfully sings of his painful predicament.

But he is not a terrifying monster, and that's a shame, because the arc of his transformation would be more acutely felt if he started from a darker place. 

There are several enormously successful pairings in this show.

Galen Johnson and Nelson Bettencourt, here during the song Gaston, provide a marvellously comic pairing as Gaston and Le Fou in Rainbow Stage's production of Beauty and the Beast. (Robert Tinker)

Galen Johnson's impossibly big and impossibly dumb Gaston and his even stupider and much smaller sidekick Lefou, played by Nelson Bettencourt, are ripe for broad, slapstick comedy, which choreographer Stephanie Manchulenko puts to excellent use.

The comic-book sound effects during their fight scene — "kapow," "bam," "krak" — really amplify the comedy and underline the larger-than-life silliness of the villains. 

The household staff is a dream team of veteran Rainbow Stage performers.

Kevin Klassen's fun-loving Lumiere is the perfect foil for Cory Wojcik's controlled Cogsworth. Paula Potosky's bewitching Babette is a funny contrast to Laura Olafson's meddlesome and maternal Mrs. Potts.

Olafson's rendition of Beauty and the Beast is heart-wrenching.

Be Our Guest provides an extravaganza of gorgeous, glittering, culinary crockery and dazzling dance pieces. (Robert Tinker)

If you are at all familiar with this musical, then you surely will be anticipating the iconic number Be Our Guest. You will not leave disappointed.

It's an extravaganza — a parade of gorgeous, glittering, culinary crockery and dazzling dance pieces.

It's a deeply satisfying piece of musical theatre and the opening night audience responded with thundering applause.

Fairy tale lovely and gold and glittery, Rainbow Stage's Beauty and the Beast is a sweet send-off to a sizzling summer in the city.

Beauty and the Beast runs at Rainbow Stage until Aug. 31.


A graduate of the Black Hole Theatre Company, Michelle Palansky has been a theatre instructor and member of the theatre troupe the Conspiracy Network. She regularly reviews Winnipeg Fringe Festival shows and also pinch hits for regular CBC reviewer Joff Schmidt.


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