For 30 years, Disney’s Oscar-winning animated film Beauty and the Beast has entranced and inspired fans of all ages. On December 15, 2022, ABC and Walt Disney Studios brought to life the beloved classic like never before for Disney’s Beauty and the Beast: A 30th Celebration.
As far back as I can remember, the story of Beauty and the Beast has always had a hold on me. From Belle, who was strong-willed and unapologetically herself, to the music, and the enticing Beast, who has to go on a heart-wrenching journey of learning what it truly means to love. I would sit in front of my parents’ television, dressed in one of my ballet outfits, and recreate Belle’s every moment and recite every line. If there is one thing all Disney fans have in common when watching their favorite Disney film for the first time, it would be that feeling of experiencing Disney magic at that moment. So, when I learned they were doing a live celebration for Beauty and the Beast‘s 30th anniversary, I was beyond excited, and my expectations were high. They did not disappoint. From the beginning to the end, I felt that same Disney magic I felt so many years ago. It was more than a performance. It was an experience.
The magical celebration played tribute to the award-winning film in the star-studded two-hour event featuring H.E.R. as Belle and Josh Groban as The Beast. The show featured never-before-seen performances with a combination of moments of animation from the film melting into live-action stage performances as Rita Moreno narrates a behind-the-scenes look at the history and making of Walt Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. Moreno’s narration of the landmark film was elegant and educational, emphasizing how each step of production was crucial to storytelling. From an idea that took 50 years to come to be, a home on broadway, and a live-action film in 2017, the history of Beauty and the Beast is truly a tale old as time.
As a lifelong Disney fan, watching this celebration unfold, you could feel and see the love and dedication that went into bringing this fairytale to life. From the tiniest teacup to a towering beast, each performer put their heart and soul into this story. The quality left me feeling guilty that I didn’t have to buy a ticket to watch. The attention to detail that went into each costume, the changing set pieces, and the craftsmanship made it feel like we had stepped through the pages of a storybook and brought movie magic to the stage. When you have a highly regarded story like Beauty and the Beast, the demand for excellence is even higher, and the cast exceeds all expectations. The focus almost always ends up being on the starring players, but the talent and professionalism that the chorus showed were outstanding; the flawless execution of each dance number and the impressive stunts during “Be Our Guest” brought the show to the next level.
But one thing is for sure. H.E.R.’s portrayal of our beloved protagonist Belle was magnetic. The award winning artist was the living, breathing embodiment of who Belle is. She had a commanding stage presence that was graceful and energetic. She hit every note flawlessly. A good love story is nothing if the chemistry isn’t there. H.E.R. and Groban (The Beast) made that connection on every level. Their performance of “Something There” was a stand-out moment for me. It was in the small details, like how she reached her hand out or looked over at him with warm doe-eyes. Or how The Beast would turn his head ever so slightly, and the quaking in his voice when he thought she caught him staring. They had a way of making their love story feel fresh again.
It is so rare to watch a television show, movie, or stage production and think, “Wow, this person belongs in this role.” That was not the case here. Many noteworthy performances brought the show together — Martin Short as Lumiere and Rizwan Manji as LeFou — but one that stuck out the most had to be Joshua Henry as Gaston. Aggressive, arrogant, and self-centered, Henry’s effortless performance brought the film’s antagonist to life. Every time Henry took the stage, he was animated and high-spirited, and I forgot I wasn’t watching a live performance.
The celebration was more than just about a film, but a legacy. Legacies adapt and inspire a new generation of fans. To help honor the legacy of Beauty and the Beast, Groban stepped away from the shadow of the beast to perform “Evermore” from the 2017 live-action adaptation, which he performed for the film’s soundtrack. The critically acclaimed, award-winning artist gave a hauntingly beautiful performance that, in a way, was a love letter to one of Disney’s beloved characters.
Keeping up with the tradition of performing the film’s title track, “Beauty and the Beast,” Shania Twain, who played Mrs. Potts, took the stage for her rendition of the classic hit. For many, it was a bittersweet moment, as the Disney community lost the legendary Angela Lansbury in October. Lansbury played Mrs. Potts in the animated film and originally sang the track for the iconic ballroom scene. At the end of Twain’s memorable performance, the lights went down as they honored the late actress.
Finally, for a flawless finish, Groban and H.E.R. returned to the stage for their grand finale performance of “Beauty and the Beast,” with H.E.R. donning Belle’s yellow ball gown and Groban in The Beast’s royal blue jacket. But it wouldn’t be a grand finale without a twist. In the middle of the performance, H.E.R. disappeared and returned from a quick costume change in her iconic sunglasses, showing off her guitar skills and putting a modern twist on the classic melody.
Beauty and the Beast: A 30th Celebration allowed fans to experience the feeling of falling in love with the story all over again and hopefully inspired a new generation of Disney fans.
I hope you enjoyed this review, and don’t forget to check out all the other content the site has to offer by visiting the Nerds & Beyond official website. Stream Beauty and the Beast: A 30th Celebration now on Disney+.