Burning questions about ABC’s ‘Beauty and the Beast’ live production



If Disney’s 1991 “Beauty and the Beast” animated movie had a baby with the 2017 live-action remake, “Beauty and the Beast: A 30th Celebration” would be a product of that union.

The TV musical extravaganza that aired Thursday night on ABC was a mix of clips from the original — the first animated film to snag a best picture nomination at the Oscars — and live musical scenes performed by a star-studded cast, including H.E.R. as a guitar-rocking Belle and Josh Groban as the slightly creepy-looking Beast.

Joining them onstage — and sometimes overshadowing the main couple — were Martin Short as Lumière, David Alan Grier as Cogsworth, Joshua Henry as Gaston, Shania Twain as Mrs. Potts and Leo Abelo Perry as Chip. Rita Moreno, the legendary actress, singer and dancer, served as host for the whole shebang, often citing fun facts about the movie.

The goal was to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the animated version, complete with a set that paid homage to the 1991 film. Jon M. Chu, the director of “Crazy Rich Asians,” was behind the hybrid interpretation, with its set pieces featuring original sketches and songs performed to storyboard animations. In short: It was a tale as old as time … but with a twist.

‘The Little Mermaid Live!’: Five very important questions about ABC’s bizarre musical

Social media was abuzz during the two-hour broadcast, with #BeautyAndTheBeast30th trending on Twitter. Plenty commended the cast’s diversity — H.E.R. is the first Black-Filipina woman to portray Belle — and its musical talent. Others, however, were again unimpressed by the constant cartoon-to-live-performance switcheroo, just as they were during the network’s 2019 production of “The Little Mermaid Live!

That left many on social media — and at The Washington Post — with some burning questions.

What’s up with the Beast’s exposed ribs?

Unlike Shaggy’s red leather suit in “The Little Mermaid Live!” “Beauty and the Beast” slayed the costume game. But the one that dominated the stage also divided viewers.

Groban’s 10-feet-tall, grayish contraption looked a bit like something out of the “Transformers” universe. Instead of the movie’s chimeric mesh of lion, wild boar, bear and wolf, this beast is all mechanic body parts and zero fluff.

Groban peeked out from behind an exposed rib cage, and somehow managed to move around a hefty puppet-style device weighing about 60 pounds.

The vision was there — a metaphor of a human underneath the Beast’s scary scowl; or how the once-arrogant prince was imprisoned in a beastly shell. But the execution left some unnerved.

Should Belle have just chosen Gaston?

The Twitterverse was clear on Thursday night about whose team they prefer to be on.

Let’s face it, Belle’s options — a prince-turned-beast kidnapper or a brutish, illiterate hunk — aren’t great. However, Henry’s rendition of “Gaston” left many swooning over the villain.

Despite Gaston’s many red flags — like, say, his sexist views — social media users were questioning why Belle would not give him a chance.

Perhaps it was the energy Henry, a Tony Award nominee, infused into the role; or his singing chops; or his looks. Or, maybe he’s right and no one’s slick as Gaston.

Why were there so many hands in ‘Be Our Guest’?

From the animated film to its Broadway interpretation, “Be Our Guest” is always one of the most celebrated and popular scenes in “Beauty and the Beast.” In 1991, Post film critic Hal Hinson wrote “the filmmakers have referenced — and then topped — the lavish eccentricity of Busby Berkeley.” Think: cabaret meets “The Great Gatsby.”

And while Thursday’s rendition ended with flashing lights and human-sized cutlery dancing to Short’s suave voice, the beginning was not quite as luxe.

As the dining room began to proudly present H.E.R.’s dinner, hands — yes, many human hands — began moving dishes and prancing about like Thing from “The Addams Family.”

Thankfully, the hands eventually gave way to Twain and an adorable group of children dressed as teacups.

Like “Be Our Guest,” the post-dinner dance scene in “Beauty and the Beast” is iconic. The yellow ball gown Belle wears is what dreams are made of. The ABC celebration, however, just showed a movie clip of it.

Not to throw more shade at the Beast costume, but it appears to be the reason the audience didn’t get to see a live-action version of the waltz. “We knew when we had to put the white flag up,” Groban told Entertainment Weekly. “Fighting off wolves was easier than learning how to do the foxtrot.”

Still, viewers seemed to delight in Twain performing the title track, which also featured a cameo by Alan Menken, the song’s composer, on the piano. By the end, the screen showed a photo of Angela Lansbury, the original Mrs. Potts who died in October, in a tribute that some said brought them to tears.

Did it pull off the transformation scene?

Like “The Little Mermaid Live!,” many of the final “Beauty and the Beast” moments were left to play out through movie clips.

Fair enough — transforming actors dressed as furniture, a clock and a candlestick to humans, live onstage, is a difficult job.

Yet, if there were any hopes of seeing H.E.R and the contraption-less Groban waltz away in glory, sorry to disappoint — there was no dancing between them. There was however a moment in which a sunglass-clad Belle takes out an electric guitar and starts rockin’ to it.

And, if it brings any solace, H.E.R and Groban did finish off the broadcast with a spectacular rendition of the movie’s title track — that some Twitter users said gave the Academy Award-winning version by Celine Dion and Peabo Bryson a run for its money.

Did Lumière and Cogsworth steal the show?

There was not much acting in “Beauty and the Beast: A 30th Celebration,” as most of the live portions focused on the musical numbers. However, Short and Grier came out as dynamic duo that left the audience wanting more.

Grier’s salty — and occasionally goody-two-shoes — clock with Short’s rebellious and charismatic candelabra was a match made in Disney heaven. The chemistry between the two, along with their hits at each other — and yes, there was even a reference to TikTok — elicited laughter and applause from the live audience in Burbank, Calif., and wide appraisal on social media.

Why didn’t producers use them more often in the live-action scenes? That’s perhaps the right question.

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