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On 23th of October, I watched the show The Beauty and the Beast in the Paramount Theater in Seattle Downtown. It was written by Linda Woolverton in 1991. The play was directed by Rob Roth. The plot of The Beauty and the Beast revolves around Beast, who is transformed into an unsightly creature because of his cruelty and unkindness.
For him to become a human being again, he has to earn the love of someone before the rose dies. Otherwise, he will forever remain a beast (Swan 352). On the other hand, there is a beauty, a young woman named Belle, who had been imprisoned by Beast in exchange for her father’s freedom.
Ultimately, romance brews between the two youths and Beast rediscovers his humanity after they both fall in love. In this paper, I will critique the show and particularly discuss two specific production aspects, which are the lighting design and the costume design.
The way the main character approached his role was, in my opinion, very dramatic and convincing. Watching him, it was easy to suspend disbelief and be transported into the fictional world that he presented. His tone and gestures were very illustrative and compelling. He spoke aggressively and commanded the stage with an astute confidence. His change in appearance and attitude were made believable by virtue of the fact that he was capable of portraying radically divergent facades seemingly within moments.
Before he met Belle, his voice was harsh and hard. His gestures were wild and threatening, and he intimidated with his presence alone. However, after falling in love with her, he softened up considerably and gradually became more compassionate and humane. His previous performance, as a cruel person, was so convincing that when he used the word “please”, which people use on a day-to-day basis, it had a huge effect on the audience who had seen him as a cruel and heartless person.
The director of lighting in the play combined both aspects of motivated and unmotivated lighting. The second one can be defined as the use of light that does not come from an explicable source, and its main role is to create a theatrical or functional effect (Downs and Ramsey 212). An example of this at work is the scene where Beast was standing alone on stairs as he watched the rose wither.
The general mood was dark and there was only a single beam of light around him, indicating loneliness, sadness, and isolation. Furthermore, severally in the course of the play, there was a focus on the red rose. For example, after beast had been locked in the castle, the only visible light was directed on the rose, which posited to the audience that it was an important clue.
The light functions were in harmony within the play’s general theme and the concept behind the production. For the most part, the play was a comedy, which explains the mostly warm and colorful lights that have been used. This lighting theme was also underpinned by the fact that it was a commercial comedy, which was meant to attract and intrigue the audience. The Beauty and the Beast is fundamentally a play about love, forgiveness, willingness to change and readiness to accept people irrespective of their appearance.
Despite being cast as a comedy, it has very serious underpinnings that should not be ignored given the gravity of the thematic concerns (Swan 353). The intermission between dark and bright lighting, with the latter being more dominant, serves to champion a message of hope and goodness that triumphs over evil and unhappiness (Craig 12).
Therefore, the lighting was excellently suited for both the utilitarian and thematic concerns that emerge in the play. Although there were various scenes when darkness and minimal light were used, this was done to create a thematic effect and usually followed by lighter scenes to provide some relief from the serious and dark elements of the performance.
The light worked very well in harmony with other elements of design, including costumes and props. In the first scene when Belle was portrayed dancing with her neighbors, the stage was brightly and vividly lit, and the actors are in colorful costumes, which along with the light, lent a happy and exiting mood to it. In the final scene when the lovers were finally together, the lighting was warm, without being too bright and served to bring out the beauty of both actors by enhancing their makeup and costumes.
Effect of Costumes
Belle’s costume came off as being unique and subtle at the same time, which helped to set her apart from the rest of the actors, especially the dancing girls. This was important because costumes played a critical role in differentiating actors, developing, and enhancing their given attributes. In the first scene, she was reading a book, and she dressed in a blue and white dress, while the rest of the girls were colorfully decked and dancing with the equally colorfully dressed youth.
Through these contrasts, Belle was juxtaposed from the rest of the characters as a simple individual with an elegant personality. Another character whose attributes were developed through costumes was her father. He was an inventor and the director opted to dress him in colorful and outlandish costumes.
He wore peculiar hats and funny-looking yellow socks. As soon as the audience watched him, there was laughter even before he said a word. Such characters are important for bringing out comic relief and, in this case, his unusual take on things as well as his dress made him stand out (Hartz and Hunt 302). He was not very different from Shakespeare’s Lancelot Gobbo, whose strange dress and comical nature were used to give the audience comic relief from the more serious scenes in the play.
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The costumes were very effective in bringing out harmony in the play’s overall theme as well as the production concept since they were mostly colorful, which was in line with the plot’s comic and fairy tale overtones. As a commercial comedy, it had to be both brightly lit and presented so the audience could view the characters with the lightness that their roles bestowed on them (Hartz and Hunt 305).
The costumes were quite successful in connecting with other design elements, such as the light and sounds. Given that music is instrumental in every play, the dancing scenes, for example, would have looked misconstrued if they had girls wearing formal or dull clothes dancing to light comical music.
Furthermore, the light actively interacted with the costumes to create an aesthetic effect, such as when people in dinnerware were dancing in the castle while wearing golden costumes (Craig 11). The light at this time was very bright and the actors’ golden costumes blended with it, giving them a distinctive almost celestial appearance.
Like most people, I am familiar with the story of The Beauty and the Beast and I have, in fact, heard several versions of it. Some were in books and others were in films and previous plays. However, I noted that everyone does his or her rendition differently in an attempt to recreate the story. This case was not different. I honestly expected to get bored watching a story that I had read before.
Surprisingly, I found it quite captivating and even my endeavors to look at it through critical eyes did not distract me from the central storyline, which I still found refreshing. Retrospectively, I think that the director’s use of the various theatrical devices and techniques, such as lighting and costumes contributed a great deal to my sustained interest.
The play’s realistic set and even use of unmotivated lighting did not, at any point, appear to distract viewers from their suspended disbelief (Downs and Ramsey 78). Although I think that the director did not use enough motivate lighting, and I took issue with the over-juxtaposition of characters through costumes that made some fade in the presence of others, I feel that the play was, nevertheless, masterfully executed.
The Beauty and the Beast was particularly compelling to watch. The transformation that Beast undergoes credits his acting prowess and the casting directors. It appears that all people have chances to reform in their lives. In conclusion, I am of the opinion that the play successfully combined and utilized various elements of drama and renders an old story in a refreshing and convincing new way. It is one of best plays I have watched in the recent past.
Craig, E. On the Art of the Theatre. London, United Kingdom: Routledge, 2008. Print.
Downs, W., and Erik R. The Art of Theatre: Then and Now. Hoboken, NJ: Cengage Learning, 2012. Print.
Hartz, G., and Ralph H. “Humor: The beauty and the beast.”American Philosophical Quarterly 12.4 (1991): 299-309. Print.
Swan, S. “Gothic drama in Disney’s beauty and the beast: Subverting traditional romance by transcending the animal‐human paradox.” Critical Studies in Media Communication 16.3 (1999): 350-369. Print.