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The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

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The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

Fit to be king
Lilli Dellheim '25 M.A., Special to the Hawk • July 13, 2024

A cinematic dream come true

A+cinematic+dream+come+true

The vocal performances of Disney’s 1991 Beauty and the Beast revival 

Considering the fact that Belle has been my favorite Disney princess since I watched the 1991 film “Beauty and the Beast” as a toddler, it is not surprising that I was more than ecstatic for the live action movie to be made. Even better, Emma Watson from “Harry Potter” (one of my other obsessions) was going to play Belle. It was a cinematic dream come true for me, until I learned that the actors were going to sing in the movie.

I have been singing, acting and dancing (all very poorly) in plays and musicals for almost a decade, and theater is an undeniable passion of mine. In recent years especially, I have learned that theater people tend to have stricter and higher standards with evaluating vocal performances than a person who does not do theater. 

This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it means that theater people look for a well-developed vocal technique and etiquette while someone performs. Whereas a person who does not do theater might just think ‘oh, they did not use auto tune; they did well.’

There are so many elements of singing that are subjective, particularly theatrical singing. The fact that this movie, which has been a Broadway musical, did not cast trained singers is neither new nor surprising given recent remakes of musicals such as Les Misérables” or “Into the Woods.” Neither movie was done poorly, but both casted actors that had little to no experience with proper vocal training, or at least enough of it, before filming.

A general audience can watch these movies and think, ‘Wow, Russell Crowe is singing, what can’t he do?’ To contrast, someone in musical theater would think, ‘Dear God, Russell Crowe has poor vocal control in terms of strength and he cannot effectively sing the bass range of Javert. Why can’t they cast Broadway performers?’  I can definitely understand the latter opinion and I was worried knowing that this movie would generally follow that same casting pattern.

I will say that as far as singing in this movie, it was not as bad as I had imagined. Watson is by no means a poor singer, but her voice did not fit the role well because her tone did not match that of a strong and trained soprano, as Belle should.  That being said, I do not believe her singing ruins this movie. Although it is not the ideal voice for the character, it has an innocence and sensitivity that complements the character.

I also believe her acting made up for her singing. She carries herself as both courageous and fragile, finding a delicate balance of both, making Belle a much more believable character than in previous versions. Overall, Watson was a good choice as Belle, but she would have been an even better choice had this not been a musical.

As far as the other actors, there were some phenomenal voices in this production. Of course, Audra McDonald did a superb job as the wardrobe.  I was also impressed with Luke Evans’ performance as Gaston. Not only was his voice absolutely amazing, but he also played the character in a way that was new, yet honored the original storyline very well. These characters had standout performances, and perhaps it is because they have all done professional theater and I am biased.

Singing is a detail that I was not so thrilled about in this film, but I believe that the overall vocal performances were by no means awful and the movie succeeded in being excellent. It is a beautiful story that is told in a modern and artistic way.  I highly suggest you see it, whether you focus on vocal ability as much as I do or not.

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