Imago Theatre's 'Beauty and the Beast' tale gets an eye-popping, locally crafted makeover (review)

12.12.16
Imago Theatre
The Oregonian

Oddsmakers' eyes popped when "Hugo" nabbed the Oscar for Best Visual Effects back in 2012. It was supposed to go to the latest "Harry Potter" or "Transformers" installment -- each a high-profile, box office-crashing flick saturated with computer-generated digitals.

Nevertheless, the upset was a sweet shot of champagne for human artisans. A big fan of practical effects, "Hugo" director Martin Scorsese filled the story of wind-up, working automata with 15 hand-built functioning automatons. (Because these early robots were small and meticulously mechanized, usually only clockmakers took on their frustrating builds.) Combined with state-of-the-art 3D effects, the metal men morphed into vital characters, pretty much defining modern movie magic.

Populated with 100 astonishingly detailed automata, puppets and other dazzling non-digital effects, "La Belle: Lost in the World of the Automaton," is likewise, a nonstop eye-popper. After several years in the making, Imago Theatre's tricky, visionary new take on "Beauty and the Beast" arrived this past weekend. And what a landing. It's all wow factor. You'd need a jeweler's loupe to take in all the intricate work, particularly the gear-driven pieces developed by the company's director of fabrication, Lance Woolen, and Roger Nelson, the Portland mechanical engineer who died in October, and to whom the production is dedicated. 

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