Production image from Disney's Beauty and the Beast at the Cadillac Palace in Chicago
Nathaniel Hackmann (on barrel) as the cartoonish, buffoonish Gaston in Beauty and the Beast


Chicago’s dining editor took her husband, not her grandchild.

THEATRE An avid theatre goer, Penny Pollack, Chicago magazine’s dining editor, may have been the only person in the audience of Beauty and the Beast on Wednesday night who did not have a fresh memory of the 1991 Disney movie on which this touring musical production is based. She loved the set; thought act one dragged in the middle and had some forced moments, whereas act two clipped along; and she generally fell for the songs and characterizations that had made the animated Disney film such an enduring hit. Here’s a condensed version of her stream-of-consciousness recap, as told to co-workers the next day:

"When Gaston was onstage, he was the show. Even though he’s nasty and crazily cartoonish, he’s hard to dislike. His egocentrism and his singing reminded me of Robert Goulet as Lancelot in Camelot. . . . The special effects would definitely sweep away the kids: The set has the layered dimensional look of a pop-up Christmas card; Lumiere’s hands look like flames; and the way one scene melted into the next was really cool. . . . Belle’s voice was pretty and she was spunky, but she lacked some spark, charismatically speaking. . . . In act two, the Beast comes into his own, and who could resist the dinner scene when [the Beast and Belle] fall in love? . . . The show is filled with visual treats and has some really high moments—such as the "Be Our Guest" number, complete with Ziegfeld dishes and an acrobatic welcome mat—but, like so much of musical Broadway today, it’s built around only a few dynamite songs, pasted together with fabulous costumes, special effects, and comical sidekicks but also some tragically boring music."

Bonus tip: Pollack and Mr. Dining chose Trattoria No. 10 for their pretheatre meal. "It’s perfect before theatre because the food is never heavy. And the restaurant is geared to a theatre clientele: You can leave your car with the valet during the show, and the service is quick without feeling rushed." The restaurant is a starred destination in Chicago magazine’s dining guide; the review.

GO: Thru April 4. $19.50-$82.50. Cadillac Palace, 151 W Randolph.

  •  The Chicago Tribune review by Chris Jones, 3/24/10:
    "You should know that the touring production at the Cadillac Palace Theatre is not that massive original production [which opened on Broadway in 1994], but an entirely new and less-extensive visual take on the beloved material, performed by a non-Equity cast. [TWO OUT OF FOUR STARS]"
  • The Chicago Sun-Times review by Hedy Weiss, 3/24/10:
    "This version has somewhat less flash and grandeur than previous editions. And for the most part it feels lighter, brighter and more swiftly paced, with the show’s humorous elements more prominent than its darker side this time around. . . . RECOMMENDED."


Photographs: Joan Marcus