DISNEY’S BEAUTY AND THE BEASTMusic by Alan Menken
Lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice
Book by Linda Woolverton
Originally Produced by Disney Theatrical Productions
Upright Theatre Co.
Director: Natalie Burkhart
Music Director: Devon Harper
Choreographer: Jennifer Leyva
Stage Manager: Taylor Ray Donaldson
Fight Director: Carlo Aceytuno
Scenic Design: D. Aidan Wright
Properties Design: Megan Guerra
Costume Design: Cayla Tally
Wigs/Makeup Design: Taylor Wildman
Lighting Design: Branson White
Sound Design: Devon Harper and Natalie Burkhart
Dance Captain: Whitney Morris
Fight Captain: Daniel Lawson
CAST (at reviewed performance)
BELLE - Chelsea Harp
BEAST - Christian Black
GASTON - Jacob Waters
LEFOU - Luis Quezada
MAURICE - Kyle Morris
LUMIERE - Ivan Jones
COGSWORTH - Sascha Connor
MRS. POTTS - Katelyn Anderson
CHIP - Ava Burkhart
MADAME DE LA GRANDE BOUCHE - Noël Clark
BABETTE - Gina Gwozdz
MONSIEUR D'ARQUE/WOLF/ENSEMBLE - Daniel Lawson
SILLY GIRLS - Whitney Morris, Jessica Estrada, Cheyenne Ballew
ENSEMBLE - Taylor Wildman
ENSEMBLE - Claire Summers
ENSEMBLE - Jennifer Takala
BOOKSELLER/WOLF/ENSEMBLE - David Sikorski
WOLF/ENSEMBLE - Ethan Airhart
BAKER/STATUE/ENSEMBLE - Matt Formby
VILLAGE GIRLS - Emily Takala, Lillie Mikusek
Reviewed Performance: 3/10/2022
Reviewed by Genevieve Croft , Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
The most popular, however, premiered in 1994, when Beauty and the Beast were adapted into a Broadway musical-it has since become the sixth longest-running Broadway production of all time. No matter what the venue, audiences are still entertained by the story of a lovely woman who falls in love with the heart of a man, ignoring the creature exterior before her. The message of love conquering greed and vanity reigns as true today as it did in 1740.
Before delving into my review-allow me to say a few words about the producing entity, Upright Theatre Company. As a new theater in the DFW Metroplex (and let’s face it, DFW has many, many talented companies that rehearse and mount many productions each season). I was immediately met with a friendly and most welcoming staff, eager to get patrons to their seats. It has been a rough road for many arts organizations since the Pandemic started. I commend the Artistic staff for working so diligently to open a theater company during such a difficult time, and for continuing to promote and bring the importance of theatre to the stage for audiences of all ages. It is equally important to note that the Upright Theatre Company was conceived and is led entirely by women. With March being Women’s History Month, I commend you. Brava!
And now Mesdames et Messieurs, on with the review!
Director Natalie Burkhart brought together a small cast that worked well together and collaborated with a crew who clearly took their jobs seriously and knit together scenery, lighting, and costumes that enhanced the story being told by these familiar Disney characters. Her overall vision and concept were told in a simplistic manner and were very straightforward. The focus on her vision was clearly on the characters and the moments in the story, which is a most refreshing change of pace from other musicals who often focus on special effects and scenery that I feel often take away from the story and characters, the real “meat and potatoes” of the story. I knew it was going to be an evening of magic, and it certainly was presented that way. It is truly a tapestry of magic, enchantment, and the classic “Disney” narrative presented live on stage.
Scenic Designer D. Aidan Wright successfully transformed the grand proscenium of the Palace Arts Center Theatre in Grapevine to the locations needed within the story. The focus of the stage was the Beast’s castle. The castle of the Beast was presented at various levels to designate different areas of the castle. It was an interesting choice to have the castle stay on stage throughout the production, but it worked. The company brought on several small items (tables and chairs) to suggest other locations within the town-such as the local Tavern (“Gaston”) and the streets of the French provincial town (“Belle”). One detail that I was especially taken with was the presence of the enchanted rose, the symbol for which the entire story is based. The rose sat on stage the entire time as a constant reminder of the time that was slowly ticking away for The Beast, and other residents of the castle. Overall, sets were simple, and functional, and provided exactly what the production needed.
Branson White designed the lighting for this well-known Disney musical. He executed a fantastic job plotting lighting that was appropriate for each scene and mood. There were some dramatic moments on stage and White 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. The quick and seamless transitions kept the pace moving, and the energy up. Lighting was exciting to watch and provided for much of the dramatic action on stage as the story unfolded. There were several instances of actors and the members of the company being in dark spots, however, these were quickly corrected as the company moved about the stage and repositioned themselves.
Cayla Tally designed costumes that were not only period-appropriate but also paid close attention to the details within her creations. As the scenic design and lighting set the time, place, and atmosphere of the story, the costumes build upon that and display the personalities of each character. Not only did Tally have to create designs that fit the townspeople, but, she also had to take creative license when designing wardrobe for each of the enchanted castle objects as well. Each costume was quite 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 Tally incorporated into her designs. From the classic candlestick costume of Lumiere that lit up on stage, to the wonderfully creative “wardrobe” of Madame de la Grande Bouche. I was absolutely enamored with how Tally chose to create the façade of the armoire/wardrobe. It really gave the suggestion of a piece of furniture, but, was also crafted in gold and silver with slight touches of glitter as the embellishment. By far, the best detail of Madame’s costume was the gold turban she wore on her head to suggest the top of the wardrobe in the Rococo style. Such a marvelous detail!
It was also fantastic to see the yellow Belle “princess” ball gown and the costume of the Beast come close to the characters in the film. The costume designs were quite 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.
Other fantastic details with costumes included “Chip” (the youthful teacup) always appearing on a tea service, and Babette, the very French feather-duster maid. I won’t give too much of the magic away, but you will be impressed with the originality and very imaginative costumes.
Chelsea Harp was incredibly believable in the role of Belle. Through facial expression, body language, and an incredible vocal range, Harp convincingly portrayed Belle, a selfless and caring soul who is able to see the real personality of the Beast. Harp’s enthusiasm and honesty on stage were 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. Harp 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 favorite Disney sidekick) was played by Ivan Jones. Jones was very convincing through his facial expressions, French dialect, and comedic delivery. Jones was full of energy and provided the audience with even more of an opportunity to laugh. Not only did Jones deliver with his spectacular vocal range, 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” centered comedy (his affection for French maid Babette, comically played by Gina Gwozdz 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, and whimsical and likable children’s character.
By far, the most impressive performance was given by Jacob Waters in the role of villain, Gaston. Jacob Waters was the perfect embodiment of the character that was created in the 1991 animated film. Waters’ 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, Waters’ 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 Waters’ talent. This talented actor has some fantastic moments of humor on stage with Luis Quezada (in the role of sidekick LeFou), who, also, certainly has a knack for comic timing and chemistry on stage with Waters.’
The role of the Beast was portrayed remarkably by Christian Black. Black was very commanding and scary on stage, while also portraying the tender and loving side of the Beast. Black’s voice was exceptionally smooth and he delivered some wonderful moments of chemistry on stage with Harp. I couldn’t help but feel sympathy for the Beast in his moments of loss and despair. Black certainly delivers in the role of the Beast, and I look forward to seeing more of what Black can do in future productions with Upright Theatre Company.
Other standout performances included Katelyn Anderson in the role of Mrs. Potts. Anderson delivered in the most well-known song of the production (“Beauty and the Beast”). Providing moments of humor was Nöel Clark (Madame de la Grande Bouche) and cute, little Ava Burkhart in the evenings’ performance as Chip. The company had a beautiful vocal ensemble piece (“Human Again”) together, which has since become one of my favorite songs in the musical. Upright Theatre Company’s production of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast is definitely worth seeing. Their hard work is clearly evident in all aspects of this musical making for a satisfying experience at the theater. 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 while being a form of live entertainment. Time is extremely limited with this production, don’t miss out on this opportunity to see Disney’s Beauty and the Beast at the Palace Arts Center Theatre in Grapevine, courtesy of Upright Theatre Company. You are guaranteed a little enchantment, and a little magic…a fantastic way to welcome patrons to the new Upright Theatre Company.
Upright Theatre Company
Palace Arts Center Theatre
300 South Main Street
Grapevine, Texas 76051
Plays through March 13.
Saturday, March 12 at 3:00 pm and 7:30 pm
Sunday, March 12 at 3:00 pm
Ticket prices range from $12.00-$25.00 depending on ticket type. Seating is General Admission.
For information and to purchase tickets, go uprighttheatre.org.