Disney's Beauty and the Beast is not the kind of film that needs a direct-to-video sequel, though one has already been made. Every spin-off product which falls short of this classic serves only as a mockery. The best idea by far was to carry the film to Broadway, where it has developed into one of the best examples of a true theater experience, and a classic in its own right. There is no gimmick, no distortion of the tale or of the film; everything that made the film so magical is right there on stage -- it is not an addition to the film, but a tribute. What is added is a grander experience, including a song which was originally intended for the film, but left out due to time constraints and editing tugs. Alan Menken and Howard Ashman (Little Shop of Horrors) had hoped to take the film to Broadway, but plans were stalled when Ashman passed away in 1991. Menken then collaborated with Tim Rice to develop new material that would extend the musical into a full-length play. There may not have been reason to own the Broadway Cast Recording, aside from being a fan of Susan Egan's (voice of Belle), if not for these extra songs. Each one could have fit in perfectly with the film -- they aren't simply shoveled in as bonuses, but make the whole picture bigger and fuller. Every major character has their own new song, the standout being "Home," which is sung by Belle upon arriving at the Beast's castle. "Me," sung by the handsome and evil Gaston, is a boisterous love song to himself, stuffed with witty lines like "women can have their uses too/mainly to extend the family tree." Even the Beast has his solo moment with the dark, mournful ballad "If I Can't Love Her." The household objects who gave Disney World a new theme of "Be Our Guest," reveal their longings to return to human form in "Human Again," the only new song which was written by Howard Ashman. There is something for all fans here, even those who prefer the clear-cut original versions and voices from the animated film. What is better: throwing in a new, weaker story line and lesser animation to pop out sequels on video or taking originals like Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King to 42nd street, where they can shine?
AllMusic Review by Peter Fawthrop