Capsule Reviews

Dennis Brown and Deanna Jent suss out local theater

Beauty and the Beast The Muny opens its 87th season with ebullient style. A winning combination of experienced Beauty and the Beastveterans and returning Forest Park favorites instills Disney's celebrated musical with charm and panache. Beginning with Sarah Litzsinger's graceful Beauty, all eight principal roles are well cast. (When's the last time you could say that about a Muny show?) Especially pleasing are James Clow's poignant Beast and Bruce Adler's talking clock. As the pompous Gaston, Nat Chandler has great fun lampooning his usual Lancelot-dull persona. Kudos to director Matt Lenz, who spent several years with the show on Broadway, for delivering a tight and engaging evening. This is a quality endeavor from top to bottom: Even the Muny's celebrated oaks enhance the magical mood, looming ominously over the Beast's forlorn castle. Performed through June 29 in Forest Park. Tickets are $8 to $58. Call 314-534-1111. (Dennis Brown)

Man of La Mancha If La Manchais going to work in 2005, it needs a lighter-than-air touch. This version, unfortunately, is more earthbound than ethereal. The prerecorded music score seems to hamper the pace; it's as if the performers are compelled to slow down to sing the songs. Around-the-edge trimmings -- like the addition of snapping bullwhips -- cannot disguise the fact that key story points are unclear. In lieu of a point of view, we get a literal, by-the-numbers, on-the-beat staging. Audiences might go home having had a good time, but will they know why? Produced by Stages St. Louis through July 3 at the Robert G. Reim Theatre, 111 S. Geyer Road, Kirkwood. Tickets $20 to $42 ($10 rush for students and seniors). Call 314-821-2407. (DB)

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