‘Beauty and the Beast’ delivers fine family fun 

For a tale as old as time told extremely well, nothing hits the spot quite like “Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.”

The Tony Award-winning show, onstage in a sweet and colorful touring production through Aug. 29 at the Golden Gate Theatre, is delightful for families. It also provides a nice antidote to the vapidity permeating today’s pop culture, even though some of its prominent images — the rose, the wolves, oddly enough — are more familiar today in the likes of “The Bachelor” and “Twilight.”

Yet the beauty of “Beauty and the Beast” is in its simple straightforwardness, and its messages promoting patience, intelligence, friendship and love. At the same time, it’s never sappy, and it often serves up the perfect amount of PG-level sass.

Rob Roth, who directed the original Broadway production of the show, again is at the helm of this version, which features new staging and an added second-act song (Belle’s kick-butt power ballad “A Change in Me”).

It looks great, too, particularly the bright set backdrops with structures and patterns reminiscent of what’s on gorgeous fabric from Liberty of London or Souleiado from France.

The story (book by Linda Woolverton) is taken from an old French fairy tale about a cursed beast who must find true love to break a spell that will turn him back into a prince. The beast finds his salvation in Belle, the young woman who’s more interested in reading than courting her village’s egotistical macho man, Gaston.

Meanwhile, the beast’s castle is filled with talking objects — a clock, candlestick, teapot, feather duster and others — who also long for the spell’s reversal so they can be human again.

Featuring choreography by Matt West, “Human Again” is one of this production’s many charming numbers along with “Belle,” “Be My Guest,” “Gaston” and the title tune (all written by Alan Menken, Howard Ashman and Tim Rice).

In fine voice and spirit, Liz Shivener is the ideal Belle, a woman of substance who dares challenge the scary beast, but also is open to seeing the person behind the monstrous face.

Justin Glaser is appropriately tough and sensitive as the Beast, while Nathaniel Hackmann hams it up terrifically as Gaston.

Members of the household — Merritt David Janes as Lumiere, Keith Kirkwood as Cogsworth, Erin Elizabeth Coors as Babette and Sabina Petra as Mrs. Potts — round out the cast with lively whimsy.



Disney’s Beauty and the Beast

Presented by Best of Broadway

Where: Golden Gate Theatre, 1 Taylor St., San Francisco

When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday-Friday; 2 and 7:30 p.m. today and Saturday; 2 p.m. Wednesday and Aug 29

Tickets: $30 to $99

Contact: (415) 512-7770; www.shnsf.com

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Leslie Katz

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