The 30th Anniversary celebration of the animated classic “Beauty and the Beast” that aired on ABC on Thursday night had a tall — and at times confusing — order: It was a live show, it was a dance performance and it was a look back at the movie’s making, with portions of the original film used strategically to bridge the gaps in the story. A network biting off more than it should chew? A tale as old as time, you could say.
Luckily, the artists at the center of the live performances and dance numbers brought the show to life in a way that brought a castle’s-worth of magic to the stage in a vibrant display that more than adequately honored the beloved 1991 movie.
The live elements of the show — particularly the artful dance pieces, like the one in which the artists mimicked the motions of petals falling from the enchanted rose, and the iconic music numbers like “Be Our Guest” — could have easily stood alone and if you at any point wished they would have been able to, you’re not alone.
Perhaps it was a testament to the casting — David Alan Grier as an appropriately salty Cogsworth, Martin Short as Lumière, Shania Twain as twangy Mrs. Potts – that one could be left wanting more, especially given the hit-and-miss nature of the live shows that have preceded it.
But most credit should go to H.E.R., Josh Groban and an outstanding Joshua Henry in the roles of Belle, Beast and Gaston, respectively.
The male leads held their moments to the surprise of no one. Groban stood out most in his performance of “If I Can’t Love Her” from the stage version of the film and Henry showed off his mighty vocal power in “The Mob Song” in a way that makes you wish someone had been so smart as to cast him in the 2017 film.
But it was H.E.R., who bucked tradition with a guitar-shredding moment at the show’s conclusion, that brought the audience the risk this show needed to step out of a mighty animated shadow and move Belle into 2022 in a way we deserve more of.
If this is what Disney leans into in forthcoming princess iterations, be our guest.