Timeless Tale

Of some things, I shall never tire: Andy Williams singing “Moon River,” blue sky days, my main squeeze telling me he loves me, and Beauty and the Beast.

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve seen the Disney adaptation of the fairytale written by French novelist Gabrielle-Suzanne Babot de Villeneuve (published in 1740). There’s the animated classic, the non-animated film, the Broadway play, and the play—off-Broadway and way off-Broadway.

I’ve seen them all—more than twice—in New York, NY; Pittsburgh, PA; Bridgeport, WV; and in the comfort of my own home. My daughter Kristen and I enjoyed the timeless story yet again last week at the historic Dock Street Theatre in Charleston, SC.

My daughter Kristen gave me the tickets for my birthday. My children know what makes me smile.

I’ve never grown too old for Disney stories. I enjoy them all. But Beauty and the Beast is far and away my favorite.

The 1991 animated movie captivated me as much as it did my young children. My heart still flips a floppity thump when I hear Angela Lansbury croon the title track.

Lansbury was 66 years-old when she lent her voice to Mrs. Potts. Three years ago, at age 91, the esteemed actress performed the song live (accompanied by Alan Menken) at the Lincoln Center in honor of the film’s 25th anniversary. The sentimental and charming performance is one click away—on YouTube.

I don’t know why Beauty and the Beast holds me captive. Maybe I’m drawn to tales of strong and intelligent girls who love reading about brave heroines, then find themselves in the midst of their own adventures. I want to be that girl.

Maybe I am awed by the imaginations of those who thought up the idea of people who are slowly turning into clocks, candelabras, teapots, and wardrobes—all because of an evil spell. I envy that kind of ingenuity.

Maybe I’ve always secretly wished that my dishes and cutlery would celebrate in dance and song every time I sit down to a meal. Alas, my dishes and cutlery are shy kitchenware.

All the above plus clever dialogue, unforgettable characters, and a timeless soundtrack weave together to give a fresh twist to a traditional plot. I like stories that remind us, in the words of the Little Prince, “…It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”

Though I’ve seen the story played out numerous times, no two experiences are exactly the same. The version we saw last week was laced with creative interpretations.

Gaston’s song in the pub (“…No one’s slick as Gaston…_”), was choreographed using tin beer mugs that became percussion instruments. Cast members sang, danced, and clinked their mugs to accompany the lyrics—kind of like Anna Kendrick’s “The Cup Song”—but not.

It mattered not that I can recite the lines and sing along with the songs. Still, I wanted to save Belle’s father and punch Gaston. Still, I shivered at the wolves in the forest and swooned to the lyrics of “Beauty and the Beast”—“Tale as long as time….”

As petals fluttered from the rose to the ground, I caught myself thinking, “Tell her you love her! Time is running out!” followed immediately by, “Get a grip. You know how it turns out.”

In Beauty and the Beast, the Prince is transformed into an unsightly creature for making a harsh judgment based on outward appearance. The spell is broken when the ever-courageous Belle

She is not deceived by appearances, but recognizes the beauty within.

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (The Little Prince—again) said, “All grown-ups were once children…but only a few of them remember it.”

Not me. I do my best to keep living it.

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