The cast of ChiShakes' "Beauty and the Beast."

It's clear, based on yesterday's sold-out performance of Disney's Beauty and the Beast, that Chicago Shakespeare Theatre has a hit. From the moment Belle (the charming Emily Rohm) comes strolling down the aisle singing that well-known passage ("Little town, it's a quiet village..."), kids of all ages in the intimate Chicago Shakespeare Theater marveled at the talent and stagecraft in this exceedingly high-quality production.

This is my fourth time seeing this musical onstage. The previous two times were a non-Equity tour that had its moments, but was mostly a flimsy memory of the original 1994 Broadway production. At ChiShakes, we have a wholly original production directed and choreographed by the amazing Rachel Rockwell, who has a knack for injecting wit and heart into all she touches, filled with a top-notch cast of well-respected Chicago actors. Scott Davis' evocative scenic design uses curtains and projections (designed by Mike Tutaj) to move the action and multiple scenes along with fluidity.

In addition, the show has been smartly whittled down to 70 minutes, so squirmy kids' attention spans aren't taxed too much. That said, all the moments you'd expect in Beauty and the Beast are intact (including the kick line and magical special effects), but with less fat.

Most amazingly, tickets are only $18 for children 12 and under, so it's a great deal. This is children's theatre that's smart, professional and thrilling for all ages.

"Beauty and the Beast" plays through August 26 at Chicago Shakespeare Theatre on Navy Pier. More info here >