By Kat Riddler, Editor-In-Chief
Sold out performances of the show is only one indication that “Beauty and the Beast” at the Blanche M. Touhill Performing Arts Center was a must see this weekend. Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” was presented by Variety Children’s Theatre. Directed by Tony Award nominee Lara Teeter, Variety’s production is a unique performance on its own. The show stars professional performers along with a children’s ensemble featuring children of all abilities. The children are not on the stage once but multiple times and are seamlessly woven into the production, adding a youthful presence to the Disney show. A total of 43 of Variety’s children and teens were in the production, and 13 teenage interns were involved from the lighting to costumes to stage design.
The show is the eighth annual Broadway production of the story, following the inventor’s daughter Belle (Kaitlyn Mayse) falling in love with the Beast (Jason Michael Evans) after running away from her “provincial life” and constant wooing from Gaston (Nathaniel Hackmann). The songs, characters, and story may be familiar to the movie released in 1991, but the cast and crew makes the familiar seem unique and new.
The whole ensemble worked together well, and duos and trios showed great harmonies and chemistry. Le Fou (Ryan Jacobs) and Gaston had hilarious jokes and gestures that played off one another, while Belle and her father, Maurice (Whit Reichert), had touching songs and interactions about being true to yourself. Belle and Gaston’s duet “Me” was absolutely incredible to see Belle become a living doll as Gaston carries her around to gloat about their future married life. It takes talent to flow naturally from being in one steep angle pulling away to then be suddenly positioned in a piggyback and other ragdoll positions throughout the song.
The stage set was very magical, with grandiose designs that move in and out flawlessly to transition to the next scene. Lighting was used masterfully in the scene between Gaston, LeFou, and Monsieur D’Argue (Will Bonfiglio) scheming to throw Maurice into the insane asylum to force Belle into the marriage of Gaston. The lively, lit tavern scene in the energetic “Gaston” song was now barely lit, only a bottom light on the characters that cast their gigantic shadows upon the tavern’s backdrop. Not only were the characters interacting in the scene with each other on the stage, their shadows showed a more nefarious scene looming just over their heads.
One interesting aspect to the production was the use of a male and female duet providing sign language to the hearing impaired to one side of the stage and theater. The emotion they put into signing all of the songs and the dialogue of all characters throughout the long performance was a great credit to them and the show.
Overall, this musical was a must see. I give it a 10 out of 10 and would see the “tale as old as time” over and over again.