Greg Tamblyn has outdone himself. The Portland director and producer has had his hits (three years of I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change) and failures (a financially disastrous 2003 production of Peter Pan), but he's gone all out with Disney's stage adaptation of the studio's 1991 hit. Tamblyn's self-financed production of Beauty and the Beast, as big as the original, is one of the most weirdly wonderful shows of the year.
To attempt to criticize this sort of thing is pointless—the audience is mostly little girls in Disney Princess-brand dresses and parents downing $6 well whisky from sippy cups. You already know the plot: Belle (Erin Charles, who is breathtakingly beautiful even when stuffed into a giant yellow cupcake of a dress) is held prisoner by the enchanted Beast (Leif Norby, whose glee at getting to wear fur and horns can barely be contained), to whom she teaches gentleness through the power of reading. The show need only be charming to succeed, and it is.
It has luscious costumes, a towering set and a 32-person cast. It has fireworks, flying roses and glowing props. It has a lineup of characters in silly costumes—the slutty duster, the randy candlestick the self-loving chest—that sound like discarded names for porn actors. It has the Jefferson Dancers hamming it up as animated cutlery with giant foam forks and knives on their hands, tap-dancing salt and pepper shakers, can-can napkins and sexy china. It has terrific singers, jaw-droppingly weird choreography by Amy Palomino and the least convincing wolf costumes ever made. It has shorter hems and lower necklines than I recall from the film.
No, the plot doesn't make sense, and the show occasionally feels flat, as if it were being shouted through a megaphone. But who cares? Gaston (Stacey Murdock) is a musclebound stud with a huge voice. Charles, luminous as always, has the wide-eyed, concussed expression and needy disposition of the Disney princess down; and Norby is magnificent as the Beast, raging about the stage, rending the air with his furry prosthetic paws and all but literally chewing the scenery. The show is big, loud and unapologetically strange. Your kids will find it joyous and terrifying, and if you possess even the slightest sense of humor, so will you.
Newmark Theatre, 1111 SW Broadway, ticketmaster.com. 7:30 pm Friday, 2 and 7:30 pm Saturday, 2 pm Sunday, Jan. 1-3. $42.50-$58.50.