DISNEY’S BEAUTY AND THE BEAST
Music by Alan Menken
Lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice
Book by Linda Woolverton
Originally Produced by Disney Theatrical Productions
Plaza Theatre Company
Music Director—Tommy Kennedy
Choreography—Miranda Barrus and Kaitlyn Coggin
Scenic Designer—Jay Lewis
Lighting Designer—Cameron Barrus
Sound Designer –G. Aaron Siler
Costume Designer –Tina Barrus
Props Designer/Set Dressing—Soni Barrus
Stage Manager—Cessany Carpenter
Specialty Props and Set Dressing—Mark and Deb Dandridge
CAST ( NOTE: The production is double cast. Thus, the following cast was reviewed at the 02/18/23 performance)
Beast—Freddy Martinez Jr.
Mrs. Potts—Kelsey Grace Kilgore
Les Filles de Villes—Anna Hopper, Cora Lewis, Kaitlyn Coggin, Miranda Barrus
Dance Corps—Elizabeth Miller, Kylie Kimball, Preston Andrews, Braedon Carlton
Ensemble—Ben Tanner, Carson Clay, Channing Rodriguez, Hannah Ward, Jade Stowe, Kaitlin West, Katelyn Bernard, Lauren Hanson,
Mackenzie Karr, Nevaeha Wilson, Sarah Petty, Nevaeh Beims
Children’s Ensemble—Aurora Beims, Cooper Kimball, Iliana Hanson, Kian Berrios, Mikayla Gaudamuz, Titus Beims
Reviewed Performance: 2/18/2023
Reviewed by Genevieve Croft , Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
Based on the 1991 Disney animated film, Disney’s Beauty and the Beast is what I call one of the last “classic” Princess films closing out an era with other Disney Princesses such as Cinderella, Snow White, and Aurora (Sleeping Beauty). It is not a new story-this “tale as old as time” story has been told and retold throughout the years. Written and first published in 1740 as a French fairy tale (La Belle et la Bète), the concept has been used in storytelling for many years and still continues to appear in various entertainment mediums. From the ABC television drama, “Once Upon A Time,” to the loosely based and widely panned Fran Drescher/Timothy Dalton film, “The Beautician and the Beast.” The most popular, however, premiered in 1994, when Beauty and the Beast was adapted into a Broadway musical, it has since become the tenth highest-grossing Broadway production of all time. No matter what the venue, audiences are still entertained by the story of Beauty and the Beast and how the message of love conquering greed and vanity reigns as true today as it did in 1740.
Director Jay Lewis brought together an ensemble cast that worked well together and collaborated with a crew who clearly took their jobs seriously. The designers wove a tapestry of scenery, lighting, and costumes that enhanced the story being told by these familiar Disney characters. His overall vision and concept were very impressive. The production was presented in a professional manner. From the moment audiences were allowed to take their seats before the show began, they were immediately immersed in the world of the musical. From the moment the beggar woman revealed herself as the Enchantress I knew it was going to be an afternoon of magic, and it certainly was presented that way. The actors were so fully charged with energy it really was a fun experience at the theater. Lewis certainly delivers a stunning, and dazzling spectacle-chalk full of tight harmonious voices and impressive choreography. It is truly an event of magic, enchantment, and a classic Disney narrative presented live on stage.
Scenic designs were also done by Jay Lewis. Lewis successfully transformed the theatre-in-the-round of Plaza Theatre at Dudley Hall into multiple, necessary locations required for this production. In a story with so many locations, I couldn’t help but wonder how this vast round, yet, also, intimate space would accommodate the many necessary locations for this story. Lewis really used simple suggestions of sets to create the backdrop of the location in each scene. In this production, each of the design elements work together in a very collaborative way-setting the production’s time and place but never distracting audiences from the true storytellers on the stage.
There were quite a bit of scenic changes to accommodate the multiple locations required within the story. I was absolutely awe-struck by the first impression that I got from the scenic design. Surrounding the audience were three extraordinary projections of the traditional scenes from the animated film. From the Beast’s castle to the Enchanted Rose, audiences are immediately pulled into the world of the play and are immersed into the fairy tale.
Overall, the scenic designs (while simple) left a huge impression on me. I very much enjoyed seeing simple structures (that looked like nothing but a lumber frame) come together like a puzzle and create windows, doors, and shop facades. It was comforting to see this story designed in such a way that was like the film, with uncomplicated scenic elements (all paying the appropriate homage to the original Disney film, long before CGI and computers were the standard in animation) It was simply magical to see the scenic elements take shape and form on stage. Items such as the town well and fountain set the location and never distracted from the beautiful story told by these familiar characters. The entirety of the theatre-in-the-round space was transformed into the various locations of the Beast’s castle. Plaza Theatre has a unique location at Dudley Hall where they are able to use various loft spaces to play certain scenes. I greatly enjoyed seeing the scenes of importance in the castle staged in one of the raised lofts. Scenes with the Prince/Beast and the enchanted rose, the Library scene where Belle is surprised with the library of the castle, and the ultimate, yet deserved demise of Gaston in the penultimate scene of the story. All in all, the scenic designs were functional, and also provided a wonderful suggestion to each element needed throughout the story. Transitions were seamless, and never left the audience an opportunity to break the illusion of the story.
The lighting was designed by Cameron Barrus. Barrus executed a fantastic job plotting lighting that was appropriate for each scene and mood. Like the scenic design, the lighting was also very simple, but extremely functional. There were some dramatic moments on stage and Barrus splashed the stage with lots of primary and secondary colors visualizing the emotions of the characters, and their interactions with each other in the sequence of the story. Similar to the scenic transitions, the lighting transitions were quick and seamless-keeping the pace moving, and the energy up. It was most enjoyable to see some of the special lighting effects (Maurice’s invention and the magic mirror/transformation) happen with dazzling touches of light. Lighting was exciting to watch and provided for much of the dramatic action on stage as the story unfolded. It is quite apparent to me that each designer (scenic, lighting, and costumes) collaborated well together and added their own touch of magic to the story.
The costumes were designed by Tina Barrus. Costumes were not only period appropriate but had a fine attention to detail. As the scenic design and lighting sets the time, place and atmosphere of the story, the costumes build upon that and display the personalities and status of each character. Not only did Barrus have to create designs that fit the townspeople, but she also had to take creative license when designing the wardrobe for each of the enchanted castle objects as well. Each costume was very creative, giving the suggestion of their enchanted personalities while keeping the integrity of the original Disney animated character. I was in love with the use of color, and some of the three-dimensional details that Barrus incorporated into her designs. You will be impressed when the old beggar woman magically transforms into the Enchantress. It was a moment of “awe” for me. One gem that I found particularly creative was during the large number, “Be Our Guest.” Not only is that song one of the most popular songs from Beauty and the Beast, but, it was executed in true musical theatre fashion- it was a grand spectacle with costumes that were very artistic and imaginative. I absolutely loved the youthful, dancing “salt and pepper” shakers with the sparkly shaker tops, the dancing silverware, and the painted saucers worn in tutu style. It assuredly was everything that I would have expected in a musical like this-clever and creative.
It was also fantastic to see the quintessential yellow Belle “princess” dress and the costume of the Beast so close to the characters in the film. The costume designs were very accurate and were also visually pleasing to the eye. It was another element that pulled me into the world of the fairy tale and to the magic of the story. I have to wonder how many hours it took to create, design and execute such lovely costumes-especially Lumiere’s candle stick “hands” that would give the suggestion and illusion of lit candle flames, and Mrs. Potts’ teapot dress. I especially enjoyed seeing “Chip” on stage in her costume as a teacup (built onto a rolling tea service cart). I won’t give too much of the magic away, but you will be impressed with how little details can create big elements of magic and spectacle.
Sound was designed by G. Aaron Siler. From the moment audiences were able to enter the house, we were immediately brought into the world of all things Disney. I was impressed and quite pleased to hear classic versions of other Disney songs in instrumental style. It was a nice, nostalgic touch.
The audience was fully absorbed into the world of the musical, and it is evident that the audience was captivated by the magical story unfolding before them. I sat next to two young audience members who were engaged with every move, song, and bit of choreography. Personally, I felt like a kid again, and was able to completely leave my adult world of today behind and allowed myself to be taken on a fantastic journey for two hours. Ah, sometimes I long for the carefree mentality of an 8-year-old (I am dating myself here, as you now know that I was 8 in 1991 when I sat in the movie theater watching for this “Beauty and the Beast” for the first time.) Plaza Theatre Company’s Production of “Disney’s Beauty and the Beast” did this for me on my Saturday afternoon at the theatre.
Audrey Randall was incredibly believable in the role of Belle. Through facial expression, body language, and an incredible vocal range, Randall convincingly portrayed Belle, a selfless and caring soul who is able to see the real personality of the Beast. Randall’s enthusiasm and honesty on stage was nearly constant, having a genuine affection for her father, and later for the Beast, who is overcome with feelings of love, friendship, and care for her. Randall never faltered in her delivery, and all interactions with other cast members were believable and spot-on. She was the epitome of what I would expect if Belle had been taken out of the animated Disney film and given three-dimensional life on stage.
Lumiere (my all-time favorite Disney sidekick) was played by Matt Victory. Victory (don’t you just think that is the GREATEST name for the stage?) was very convincing through his humorous facial expressions, French dialect, and comedic delivery. Victory was full of energy and provided the audience with even more of an opportunity to laugh. Not only did Victory deliver with his wonderful singing voice (“Be Our Guest” and “Human Again”) but, he also played quite a bit of physical comedy as well, it was fantastic to see his interaction with the other enchanted objects of the castle, but, I really enjoyed seeing some of the “adult” comedy (his affection for French maid Babette (played wonderfully by Joley Gow) appearing as an enchanted a feather duster) that went right over the heads of the young audience members, and allowed the adults to get a laugh. Writers have been using that device for many years. It is always amusing to me to see obvious adult humor, references or puns written into children’s animated films-as writers try to appeal to audiences of all ages. Disney’s Beauty and the Beast is no different. Lumiere is the embodiment of what you can expect with his witty delivery, adult personality, but a whimsical and likeable children’s character.
By far, the most impressive performance was given by Freddy Martinez Jr. in the role of The Beast. Martinez Jr. was the perfect embodiment of the character that was created in the 1991 animated film. Martinez’s full vocal range was very impressive. While very commanding and scary on stage, Martinez was also successfully able to portray the tender and loving side of the Beast. Martinez had some wonderful moments of chemistry on stage with Randall. I couldn’t help but feel sympathy for the Beast in his moments of loss and despair. Martinez definitely delivers in the role of The Beast. Bravo!
The role of villainous Gaston was played by Nate Milson. Milson was the perfect embodiment of the character that was created in the 1991 animated film. Milson’s full Baritone range was very impressive. I felt very compelled to sing along in “Gaston.” I know Gaston’s character is supposed to be the most unlikeable character in the story, but Milson’s performance was so fantastic, that I couldn’t help but find moments when I liked him best on stage. This is a true testament to Milson’s talent. Milson has some fantastic moments of humor on stage with Tyler Krumm (in the role of sidekick LeFou), who, also, certainly has a knack for comic timing and chemistry on stage with Milson.
This production of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast is definitely worth seeing. The attention to detail evident in all aspects of this production makes for a satisfying experience at the theater. From the moment the overture begins, and the audience is drawn into the world of the fairy tale, you will be amazed, delighted, and impressed with the magic. Whether you are the young or the young-at-heart, Disney’s Beauty and the Beast captures this “tale as old as time” of love, greed, and vanity, with memorable Disney characters and the catchy songs of musical theatre songwriting legends Alan Menken, Howard Ashman, and Tim Rice. This production is appropriate for all ages and supports exactly what the theatre is intended to do-allow an opportunity for an escape from reality, and to create magic on stage whilst being the original form of live entertainment. Judging by the applause and cheers from the audience on Saturday afternoon, audiences are guaranteed to have a splendid time. You have a limited time to see Disney’s Beauty and the Beast at Plaza Theatre Company and then, like the petals of the enchanted rose, the production fades away.
DISNEY’S BEAUTY AND THE BEAST
Plaza Theatre Company
Plaza Theatre Company at Dudley Hall, 305 S Anglin St, Cleburne, TX 76031
Plays through March 4th.
Thursday, Friday, Saturdays at 7:30 pm, Saturday Matinees at 3:00 pm
**One added performance on Saturday, 2/25 at 11:00 am**
Adults - $25
Seniors (65+) - $23
Students (13 - College) - $23
Children (under 12) - $15
Group rates available for ten or more
All ticket prices show an included $4 facility charge
For more information or to purchase tickets:
Call: 817-202-0600 or email: email@example.com