Toni Braxton takes a turn as the star of Disney's musical

By Clarissa Cruz
Updated October 23, 1998 at 12:00 PM EDT

Four years into its run, Disney’s stage adaptation (music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice) of its 1991 film Beauty and the Beast is becoming a proving ground for Broadway divas in training. Last September Deborah Gibson stepped into the role of Belle, the provincial waif heroine who falls in love with a cursed, beastly prince. Now sultry R&B star Toni Braxton, who last made news for her well-publicized financial woes, is taking her turn in the role through February ’99. Beneath a sweetly bookish facade, the Braxtonized Belle is surprisingly feisty and full-voiced. Poured into body-hugging forest-frock confections, she’s a saucy, sexed-up Disney girl with ‘tude. Also new to the cast: Designing Women‘s Meshach Taylor as an entertainingly smarmy Lumiere, the dancing candlestick who seems to have arrived in France by way of Jamaica. Still, the show itself is candy-coated fluff and eventually the by-the-numbers lightheartedness becomes numbing. For kids: B+ For adults: C

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