Be our guest? Groan. I bet nobody’s used that one to get people to see the Beauty and the Beast Broadway show before. Still, how could we not cordially invite you to one of Broadway’s hit musical tours when it is coming so conveniently close to your favorite downtown bar? Seriously, from the Bob Carr you can walk right to Church Street after the show, singing your own renditions of Alan Menken’s beautiful songs; “Big college, where we drink and pillage…every night, like the one before. Big college, full of lots of people, waking up to say…‘What happened last night?’” All right, it really is time for a little “change of scenery”! Yet, while having the Broadway experience brought to us locally can be a welcome deviation from our usual nightlife, University of Central Florida students are no strangers to Disney. For Knights unable to walk into a grocery store without seeing displays of Mickey Mouse ears and princess postcards, the magical vibe of The Happiest Place on Earth may have succumbed to its own monotony and our own cynicism.
Now that many of us are “grown-ups” with at least a few college courses under our belts, we have flipped our favorite childhood characters on their heads (figuratively, even though some of us actually have roommates who play characters at Disney). Let’s not even talk about that live action, Vanessa Hudgen’s version or that random new TV show, but in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast my girl Belle ends up falling for a man who originally kidnapped her father, locked her in a dungeon, and told her when she could eat – then they end up together. Perhaps it is this and other mixed messages hidden in our favorite childhood stories that lead to our toxic high school relationships and our subconscious perpetuation of sexist stereotypes, but instead of casting our favorite childhood movies aside, let’s lighten up and extract the positive messages. First of all, if you put up with this crap, you may inherit a castle. Next, under all of that hair, your new boyfriend might actually be gorgeous – in a borderline feminine, cartoon sort of way. How about, “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover”?
As a critical but still avid Disney-watcher, I see this story as a testament to things and people being more than what meets the eye, great relationships coming out of bad situations, and the fact that you can be attracted to or great friends with somebody you never expected. Knowing how many times I have been pleasantly surprised, I decided to collect some peers’ stories with a twist, in honor of a classic that you already know the ending to.
“I was studying abroad in Spain while my boyfriend at the time stayed in the United States. I became best friends with a guy that was very shy and quiet even though I am always loud and crazy! We became very close and told each other everything. Eventually, I realized I liked him as a lot more than a friend and it became one of the most dramatic situations ever. Despite all of that, we are together now and very happy!”
“My best friend Mackenzie and I…attended a performing arts high school. Toward the beginning of the program we had this really b*tchy teacher (who ended up getting fired), and she made me perform this song in front of class, despite the fact I [did] performance and not musical theatre…it was a disaster. She criticized me in front of class and I remember just leaving the classroom and crying my eyes out. I didn’t know her then, but my best friend came out, sat next to me, and just told me everything was going to be all right…Never thought we would be as close as we are, as she is like a total atheist and I come from a very conservative Christian belief. Despite that, out of all my friends, I think she respects my religion the most.”
“I’ve always been attracted to super feminine girls: high heels, skirts/dresses, long hair, makeup–the whole shebang–until my current girlfriend. She fits none of those categories whatsoever…not someone I ever thought I’d be attracted to – nevertheless actually dating. She has such a beautiful face and her whole style and the way she carries herself really just appealed to me. We couldn’t be more opposite but it’s quite honestly THE best relationship I’ve ever been in. Two years strong and she’s still the only girl I have eyes for.”
“I had been friends with [my boyfriend’s] cousin for about 10 years, which is how we met. We all went to Aquatica together: myself, [my boyfriend] James, his cousin Matt, my cousin Erika, and our friend Josh. After that day, when I talked to Josh, he told me that James liked Erika. She wasn’t interested in him at all, and I told her she was crazy. [James and I] ended up getting together, and I found out that right after we first met, Matt and Josh told him that he didn’t stand a chance with me.”
So I guess the story of Beauty and the Beast can still have some resonance with us jaded, feminist, we’re-in-college-so-we-are-too-educated-to-appreciate-Disney-in-a-town-where-its-commodification-is-even-more-apparent hippies! Though we watched that tape (until the VCR ate it) before understanding the sexist implications, there is nothing like seeing the show live. Whatever criticisms of the content, the music is fun and you can sing along, the costumes are elaborate and gorgeous, and it’s better than just going to a bar (again). Come on, it’s Broadway in Florida!
Opening night is October 2nd and shows start at 8 p.m. with matinees on Saturday and Sunday. Go to Broadway Across America’s website and get your tickets before last petal falls on October 7th.