Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre's Beauty and the Beast comforts and dazzles | Dance | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre's Beauty and the Beast comforts and dazzles

click to enlarge Beauty and the Beast - PHOTO: RICH SOFRANKO
Photo: Rich Sofranko
Beauty and the Beast
I have become a bit of a Beauty and the Beast expert over the last week. I recently watched the original French film, La Belle et la Bête, which story aligns very closely to the fairy tale from 1740. Then I watched the live-action remake of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, which is almost shot-for-shot the same as the cartoon version from the 1990s. (The French version is a bit odd, but thematically and cinematically, is much better and less cliche than the live-action remake.)

Lucky for me, Pittsburgh was able to give me one more iteration of Beauty and the Beast, with a ballet of the same name now playing at the Benedum Center. Running through Sun., Feb. 23, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre's production was a perfect introduction for the layperson looking to explore dance performances. The story is familiar enough to easily follow along, and it gives enough room to let the dancers shine and wow the audience with their precision. Also, at just over 90 minutes including intermission, it’s easy for young viewers to stay engaged.

Artistic Director Terrence S. Orr's production is simplistic, yet engaging. Set designs shared all the magic one would expect of a fantastical French forest and elegant castle. The ballet is based off of Lew Christensen’s production, which debuted in San Francisco in 1958.

Friday night’s performance was led by Alexandra Kochis as Beauty. She was light as air on her feet and fluttered like a butterfly across the stage. Kochis succeeded in conveying the elegance, innocence, and compassion of the Beauty character.


Beast, played by Alejandro Diaz, was blustery and powerful in the beginning of the performance, stomping his feet loudly while traversing the stage. Only later, did he let his softer side show, when falling in love with Beauty.

click to enlarge Beauty and the Beast - PHOTO: RICH SOFRANKO
Photo: Rich Sofranko
Beauty and the Beast
A note to viewers, the ballet’s story more closely aligns with the French fairy tale than the Disney iteration. Don’t expect Gaston or a talking candelabra. However, Beast’s servants, dressed like monkeys, put on a spectacular show of athleticism that shouldn’t be missed. And there were dancers that anthropomorphized birds and flowers into dance sequences and wonderful spectacles.

My only complaint was it was a bit unclear whether the ending was occurring (a reminder of my time seeing Return of the King in the movie theater), but that extended ending gave each of Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre dancers an opportunity to shine.

And shine they did. If you are skeptical of whether ballet is too highbrow, Beauty and the Beast is a great introduction, one that doesn't compromise on elegance, music, and splendor.
Tickets can be purchased on The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust’s website. Three shows remain: Tonight at 8 p.m., Sun. Feb. 23 at noon, and a sensory-friendly show on Sun. Feb. 23 at 4:30 p.m.

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