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“Beauty and the Beast” who sang it best: original, Broadway, or live-action?

Bella McGill, Editor

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As everyone in the entire world knows, the live-action Beauty and the Beast movie came out on March 17, 2017 to the delight of Disney fans, and little kids, everywhere. The new movie stayed true to the original source material while still managing to add new aspects to differentiate it from the 1991 version. Among the new aspects are characters, storylines, and, most importantly, music.

Music is a huge part of a successful musical, for obvious reasons. You need, at least, a great opening song, a catchy dance number, and an emotional ballad in order to win the crowd, and Beauty and the Beast has managed to nail that in all three versions. But which one is the best?

The first song to discuss is the big opening number: “Belle,” which follows Belle around her small town while her fellow townspeople sing about how strange she is. In the 1991 version, the ensemble is very well-rounded. You can hear each section―soprano, alto, tenor, and bass―and they all blend well together to make it sound full and musical. In the Broadway version, Susan Egan, the original Belle, is what truly carries the song. The townspeople are good singers, but they don’t have that one thing to make it match the original. As for the live-action version, it’s good, but I can’t really hear any harmonies, the voices are too shrill in places, and the song just lacks a deep sound throughout its entirety.

The next song(s) are “No Matter What” from the Broadway version and “How Does a Moment Last Forever” from the live-action version. (Sadly, the original does not have a song to go with these two.) Both of these songs are Belle’s father, Maurice’s time to shine. “No Matter What” is an incredibly sweet duet between Belle and Maurice, each talking about how the other is important and special and loved. Proof that Maurice is the best father ever: “I pray that you remain exactly as you are.” In “How Does a Moment Last Forever,” Maurice sings about his relationship with Belle’s deceased mother. It’s a very touching song and is reprised later in the movie by Belle. Celine Dion also recorded a version which plays during the ending credits of the movie. As for which song is better, I personally think that “No Matter What” helps to establish the connection between Belle and her father, but Kevin Kline, who plays Maurice in the live-action version, has a better voice for his song.

Gaston’s proposal in the original Beauty and the Beast is humorous because Belle kicks him out while a Polka band plays in the background; in the Broadway version, he gets his own song, and let me tell you, it is brilliant. The song is entitled “Me.” In it, Gaston, true to form, sings all about himself and how wonderful Belle’s life will be when (not if) she marries him. My favorite thing about this song is how it is performed; so, if it has grabbed your interest (and why wouldn’t it?), go on YouTube and look it up. Trust me, it’s worth it.

The “Belle (Reprise)” is short, so I’ll (hopefully) mirror that fact. Each of the Belles are good singers and bring their own personalities into the song. Even though Emma Watson’s voice is clearly auto-tuned, it’s not as obvious in the reprise, and I think that the powers-that-be may have actually let her sing. For all intents and purposes, though, Paige O’Hara has this one.

A lot happens in-between the “Belle (Reprise)” and “Gaston” which is why the Broadway version added in a very emotional song: “Home,” which Belle sings after she has agreed to take her father’s place as the Beast’s prisoner. This is one of my favorite songs because it shows a different side of Belle, one where she’s scared but still determined to be strong. It’s all about how just because she’s stuck at the castle for the rest of her life, it’s not her home (because “Home will be where the heart is”) and she’s not giving up on her life outside.

As mentioned before, next up is “Gaston/Gaston (Reprise).” Of course this song made it into all three versions because it is simply a work of art. LeFou, one of the greatest comic relief roles in history, is at his best with this song and generally being a great best friend. (After all, I would love to have a song that says my name at least seventeen times.) The original and Broadway versions are pretty similar as far as lyrics go, although there is a large dance break in the Broadway version. In the live-action version, the songwriters changed quite a bit―for realistic reasons, for creative reasons, I don’t know―but the lyrics are still good. Luke Evans plays a great Gaston, but he doesn’t quite belt it out there at the beginning like the other two Gastons. As for the LeFou’s, my personal favorite is the live-action version. Gad is a great comedian, and he brings something very unique to the bar table.

Please, be my guest as I discuss the next song: “Be Our Guest.” While each performance of this song is extremely intricate and well-done, I have to say that the original version will forever be the best version. Not only does it have Angela Lansbury (and I’m sorry, but you can’t beat a Broadway legend), but Jesse Corti is just the best LeFou. His French accent is spot on throughout the entire movie, for one, but his performance in “Be Our Guest” is very fun and humorous without it seeming like he’s trying too hard. What I will say about the live-action version is that I enjoyed the new character, Maestro Cadenza, a harpsichord, who got his own mini solo, which I thought was charming.

Next are two songs that don’t actually “happen” at the same time, but they have the same meaning and are sung by the same character, so I have to discuss them together. In the Broadway version, after the Beast scares Belle away from the castle, he sings “If I Can’t Love Her,” where he laments the fact that she was his last chance for breaking the curse and he let her get away. Then, in Act II after Belle has gone to help her father, the Beast sings “If I Can’t Love Her (Reprise)” in which he says that he has learned to love her, but that she does not―cannot―love him in return. In the live-action version, the Beast sings “Evermore” while climbing up the towers of his castle as he watches Belle ride away from him. “Now I know she’ll never leave me/Even as she runs away”―talk about heartbreaking. (It’s especially impressive when you learn that this song was Dan Stevens’ first time singing.)

Now we’ll rewind and go back to the moment when Belle and the Beast’s relationship begins to change: “Something There.” All three performances of this song are well-done and sweet, with no lyrical changes, so it comes down to the best singers. While most of the time I prefer Susan Egan’s Belle to Paige O’Hara’s, I think that O’Hara has the best version; therefore, I’m giving this song to the original Beauty and the Beast.

While “Be Our Guest” is a wonderful chance for the enchanted objects in the castle to sing, they obviously needed a song to express their longing to be human again or to reminisce their days in the sun. In the Broadway version and the special extended edition of Beauty and the Beast, the song “Human Again” features characters like Lumiere and Madame de la Grande Bouche (renamed Madame Garderobe in the live-action version) telling what they’ll do when they’re no longer household appliances. In the live-action version, they sing “Days in the Sun” which is essentially about the same thing but has a completely different feel. It’s more nostalgic than hopeful, mostly due to the fact that Madame Garderobe and Maestro Cadenza sing about how they haven’t seen each other in years due to being on different floors.

The titular song, “Beauty and the Beast,” has become a classic. As much as I would love to compare the three versions of this song, I know what the answer will be, so why waste everybody’s time? Obviously, the original version is the best version (because who can compete with Angela Lansbury?) However, the ending song of the live-action version is a close second with Audra McDonald’s incredible voice leading the way.

Once again, this song is only from the Broadway version, but it’s an amazing song. “A Change In Me” is Belle telling her father that something within her has changed. It comes up when she is trying to convince him that the Beast is not the monster Maurice thinks he is; she then goes on to explain how she has grown as a person. It’s an incredible piece that talks about being at peace with oneself and how it’s expected as you grow up. A++ job.

Finally, it’s time to discuss “The Mob Song,” (Dun dun dun!) This is probably one of my favorite moments from Beauty and the Beast, which I know is weird, because of the music and because of the meaning. The ensemble sings, “We don’t like what we don’t understand/In fact, it scares us,” which adds a whole other level to the evil behind it. In the live-action version, there are two new parts which I think adds a more sinister aspect to Gaston’s character (“Call it war, call it threat/You can bet they all will follow/For in times like this they’ll do just as I say”) and a more self-aware aspect to LeFou’s (“There’s a beast running wild, there’s no question/But I fear the wrong monster’s released.”) For those reasons, and also because I think this is Luke Evans’ best performance which blows the other Gastons out of the water, the live-action version of “The Mob Song” is the best.

Each version of Beauty and the Beast is special and enchanting in its own way. That being said, I have to say that, from a purely musical standpoint, the Broadway version is the best version. Their singers are great, and they manage to bring their acting into their singing, which is another reason why I think that it’s better than the other two. Not only does it do the original songs justice, it adds in several new songs that are simply incredible, as Broadway is wont to do. “Home” will forever have a place in my heart, and “Me” will forever be playing in the back of my mind while I’m taking my AP tests. (FYI, “Evermore” seriously almost beat out the Broadway version single-handedly, but I can’t get over Emma Watson’s auto-tuning.)

About the Writer
Bella McGill, editor

Bella McGill is a senior at DCHS and in her third year on the Parnassus staff. She is in the plays, French club, 4-H, and band. In her spare time, she...

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