Beauty and the Beast Review

Disney’s enchanting musical version of the beloved fairy tale Beauty and the Beast premieres on the James Barr Auditorium’s stage. This mark’s Homestead High School’s first endeavor into the world of Disney Musicals, and boy has it been a trip!

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Beauty and the Beast has a familiar but also heartwarming story, a number of delightful characters, big-number choreography that consumes the sprawling James Barr stage and winning tunes delivered handsomely by a first-rate cast. Who wouldn’t want to be Homestead Theatre’s guest?

4G7A6608Story: On a cold, wintry night an ugly old witch asks a handsome young prince for sanctuary at his castle door. When he rebukes her, she warns him that looks can be deceiving and mask the real beauty beneath the surface. Unmoved, he sends her back into the night, whereupon she reveals herself as a beautiful enchantress. She then casts a spell over him that turns him into a hideous beast and his servants into objects.

She leaves behind a single rose, warning the prince that unless he can find someone who will mutually love him before the final petal falls he and his servants will remain forever in their present condition. As the years go by and the prince remains alone with his anger, he and his servants fear their time will run out.

4G7A6632In a nearby village, a young woman named Belle spends much of her days reading books that inspire her to a grander life. Gaston, a handsome but arrogant and vain hunter, causes other women to swoon but fails to impress Belle. When Maurice, Belle’s eccentric inventor father, becomes lost in the woods on his way to a fair, he arrives at the prince’s door but then is imprisoned at the castle.

LeFou, Gaston’s toady, finds a scarf in the woods that Belle had given to Maurice, causing Belle to search for her father. When she comes across the castle, she offers to switch places with her father as the Beast’s prisoner, which he accepts. Slowly, with the encouragement of his staff, the Beast learns to love Belle, regardless of whether she will love him in return.

Other Info: Based on an 18th century fairy tale by French writer Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont and the 1991 Disney animated movie, the musical version of Beauty and the Beast premiered on Broadway in 1994 and closed in 2007 after more than 5,500 performances, the ninth longest-running production in Broadway history.

Linda Woolverton’s book adapts the fairy tale with smart decisions, such as making Belle a self-confident young woman in search of a meaningful life. Music by Alan Menken is lush and easy on the ears and complemented by the appealing lyrics written by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice.

Director, Amelia Figg-Franzoi is no stranger to musicals, and Beauty and the Beast is one of her favorite.  But for this show, Figg-Franzoi changed the way she works on musicals and how she works with high school students.  Traditionally, Figg-Franzoi plans and choreographs everything herself, but this year, it was a collaborative effort.  Each dance in the show is group choreographed with students taking the lead to create steps as well as develop dance moves Ms. Figg-Franzoi already created.  The Leads blocked and choreographed their own scenes and the featured dancers created all the wolf dances.  Look out for Belle (Mari Duckler) and Gaston’s (Derrick Karas) song Me, which was created by the two.

4G7A7230Mari Duckler as Belle and Dominick Cole as Beast make for a fetching couple with fine chemistry as the title characters, both demonstrating that they have the voices and talent to deliver convincing performances.  Mr. Cole has created a new style of Beast as he climbs up and down stairs on all fours and crouches on tables and chair in the style of a gorilla or bear.

They’re supported by a strong cast that includes Andrew Lococo as the Beast’s romantically inclined valet-turned-candelabra Lumiere, Sarah Mai as the stuffy butler-become-clock Cogsworth,Romina Sapozhnikov as the optimistic cook-turned teapot and Sarah Verespej as the saucy chamber maid Babette, the object of Lumiere’s affections and now a feather-duster in appearance.

4G7A6760Derrick Karas hams it up to the satisfaction of the audience as the dimwitted, venal Gaston while Nikolai Gardner manages to find some charm in the smarmy LeFou.Jessie Schoessow delights as Belle’s genial mother Maurice and the young Lily Oberneder  and Kate Fergusonswitch off being a hit as Mrs. Pott’s little teacup of a daughter Chip.

Zach Ginkel plays a genial bookseller, Matthias Wong is a sinister Monsieur D’Arque in cahoots with the slimy Gaston and Emily Boehlke has a grand time as an opera diva who now finds herself an enchanted wardrobe in the prince’s castle. A new twist that Homestead added is the role of the young prince played by Lauren Burghardt and the Enchantress, Allison Rowe traditionally seen only at the beginning of the tale.  For Homestead’s production the Enchantress appears throughout, guiding and pushing the prince along from the shadows.  And at the end of Act 1 in the song If I can’t love her, the Beast dances with his former human self as he laments his curse.

The story is overly familiar and may not be quite as enchanting for some adults as for children, especially after more than one viewing. Homestead keeps it appealing, though, and paces the leisurely presentation well, aided greatly by musical director Rebecca Winnie’s reading of the score with the spirited Homestead High School Pit orchestra.

Musical: Beauty and the Beast

Company: Homestead High School

Venue: James Barr Auditorium Homestead High School

Dates: February 18th-21st

Tickets: Students $8, Adults $10

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