Review Disney BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (Chicago Shakes): Perfect Abbreviated Return to a Beloved Tale

Chicago Shakespeare Theater presents Disney BEAUTY AND THE BEAST.

A tale as old as time…

The girl meets beast is a well-known fairytale. Disney has produced their musical version in multiple ways; animated film (1991), Broadway stage (1993), full movie (2017), and television special (2022). The show features a memorable score that includes the romantic ballad “Beauty and The Beast” and the hilariously cheeky “Gaston.”  The team of Linda Woolverton (book), Alan Menken (music), Howard Ashman (lyrics) and Tim Rice (lyrics) created a story with songs that have been loved for over thirty years by kids and adults.   

Now, Director and Choreographer Amber Mak masterfully modifies the musical for a contemporary and younger audience. Mak tightens the tale to a 75 minute family-friendly experience. She not only trims the story to the essentials, Mak orchestrates the action to seamlessly roll into the next scene. The transformations, crone to enchantress and beast to prince, happen quickly onstage. Scenic Designer Jeffrey D. Kmiec also aids in the transitions. Kmiec keeps the set simplistic and classic. He frames the stage with over-sized books. He even stacks a few as a mini staircase. Kmiec shows change of locale with the village fountain or the castle’s dining table popping up from below the stage. He also uses Projection Designer Mike Tutaj to add depth without length. His projections showcase an expansive library or a grand ballroom. Tutaj also repeatedly features a book with turning pages reinforcing the page-to-stage magic.

Mak’s ensemble is top notch! In the leads, Audrey Hare (Belle) and Jason Michael Evans (Beast) charm as spirited individuals finding commonality to bond over and eventually fall in love. Hare captivates in her wistful yet fierce renditions of “Belle” and “Home.” A deliciously arrogant David Sajewich (Gaston) commands attention and garners plenty of laughs in his over-the-top love of self. Some of the Gaston admiration is earned with his impressive physical feats during a bar scene. All the tavern crew, including Gaston’s playful sidekick Sam Linda (Le Fou), join Sajewich in some super cool beer-mug-clinking synchronicity.

Costume Designer Theresa Ham uses multiple wardrobe changes to dress the high energy chorus. They start out as an eclectic collection of French villagers. At the castle, they become enchanted fixtures donning elegant finery as a clock, tea pot, candelabra and feather duster. Ham also conjures up life-size plates, silverware and napkins for a festive dinner party. Later in the woods, they become creepy wolves. The versatile chorus adds color and pizzazz to the show. And nod out to James Earl Jones II as the delightfully prim and ticking Cogsworth.            


Ever just the same

Ever a surprise

Ever as before

Ever just as sure

As the sun will rise…

Chicago Shakes’ Disney BEAUTY AND THE BEST is a perfect abbreviated return to the beloved fairytale.    

Running Time: Seventy-five minutes with no intermission

At Chicago Shakespeare Theater on Navy Pier

Book by Linda Woolverton

Music by Alan Mencken

Lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice

Directed and choreographed by Amber Mak

Music Direction by Charlotte Rivard-Hoster

Performances are:

Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays at 11am   

Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays at 2pm

Thru August 20th

For more information or tickets

Production photos by Liz Lauren

For more Chicago theatre information and reviews, please visit Theatre in Chicago

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