Being serenaded by singing silverware is not necessarily how I like to spend a summer Sunday evening. But when I was invited to attend the final performance of Beauty and the Beast, I thought, Bring on the dancing cheese grater! A run of 5,510 performances and more than 13 years is certainly cause for celebration, and the closing of a long-running Broadway show is a historic event. Even ex–Disney honcho Michael Eisner was on hand at the Lunt-Fontanne Theater to see Belle (That’s So Raven star Anneliese van der Pol, pictured) and the Beast (Steve Blanchard, left) take one last waltz around the stage. (The next tenant at the Lunt-Fontanne, the screen-to-stage adaptation of Disney’s The Little Mermaid, begins previews Nov. 3.)
From the first notes of the overture, the atmosphere was electric. Every entrance got a hand. The introduction to the dinner-dance extravaganza “Be Our Guest” was drowned out by anticipatory applause, and the song’s ending earned a standing ovation. And my what a guy, that Gaston! Donny Osmond (pictured, right) — who recently did a well-received stint as the antler-loving muscle man — made a one-night-only comeback, and the crowd ate up every flex of his biceps and flash of his pearly whites. Once the fairy tale came to its happily-ever-after conclusion — Belle looking gorgeous in her 40-pound ball gown, the Beast-turned-Prince gazing lovingly into her eyes, former candelabra Lumiere fondling the French maid — and the cast enjoyed an overwhelming standing ovation, Blanchard brought out the creative team (including composer Alan Menken), introduced a few unsung company members, and took a couple good-natured jabs at costar Osmond. The cast, crew, and guests then made their way over to Cipriani on 42nd Street for a lavish buffet, dancing (you should have seen this crowd get down to “SexyBack”!), and a seemingly endless supply of champagne.
The mood was wonderfully festive, but I can’t help but mourn the passing of this Broadway warhorse: It was Disney’s first foray into live theater — a move that truly changed the face of the Great White Way. It was the perfect first show for young theatergoers. And it even had enough charms to satisfy the 10-and-over crowd. After all, who among us can resist a dancing sugar bowl?