Beauty and the Beast – The Columbia Marionette Theatre

theatreAs part of my support the local arts resolution, my husband and I went to go see Beauty and the Beast at The Columbia Marionette Theatre. Coming up to the castle, yes it is in a castle, was like stepping into a wonderland. The inside was filled with displays of other puppets (some from classic tales, some not) and an array of small marionettes available for purchase. In the theatre itself, there are four birthday party areas (all of which were full on the day of our trip) though the Oz setup was my favorite.

There is a map clearly marking where adults are to sit but one thing I found a bit disappointing was that this is not enforced. This is a side note but I wonder if this is part of the 24-7 helicopter parent issue but many parents would not let their children sit by themselves so those behind them could see. Perhaps such parents would be offended to be asked to move? I don’t know. As a child, I had been to plenty of events where children sat in one place and the parents in another (within view of course). I could see fine, so it didn’t bother me, but I could hear children that were in back of some of these adults telling their own parents that they couldn’t see.

Back to the show, I was glad to find that it more closely resembled the original French tale but was nicely condensed into an hour long presentation. Gone was the loss of fortune and the move to the French farmhouse but one of Belle’s sisters (both of whom were completely omitted in the Disney version) made an appearance. Fitting with the original, this sister was selfish, which provides a nice contrast to Belle and developing her character much more quickly. There were a lot of special effects I did not expect, smoke and a painting from behind which the Beast speaks to those who enter the castle, along with some truly stunning puppets. The main characters were lovely but I was particularly enchanted (cough) by the laden table that walked.

Yes, there were a lot of children there (this is a marionette theatre after all) but they added to the magic of the show. In one scene an enchanted wardrobe and dressing table make a spinning, dancing entrance. For the children, this was pure magic. It was as though they didn’t even notice the strings. So lovely to see. The show is an audio recording but the puppets themselves didn’t always behave so it really gave it the feel that no two shows are alike, very much akin to theatre.

I hope at some point they get a microphone so the audience can actually hear the introduction and conclusion of the show. A non-cell phone notice would be great too (so many bright lights in the audience from people texting and what-not). All in all, I loved it and will go again. It’s made me excited about puppetry – not something I would ever thought I would say. I would love to get a good look at their workshop.

The show runs until April and tickets are just $5. If you’d like to read a more in-depth review, check out this one from local arts magazine Jasper.

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