BEAUTY AND THE BEASTMusic by Alan Menken
Lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice
Book by Linda Woolverton
Artisan Center Theater
Directed by John Wilkerson
Artistic Director – Dee Ann Blair
Music Director – Richard Gwozdz
Choreographer – Elise Lavallee
Scene Design – Steve Skidmore
Lighting Design – Natalie Burkhart
Costume Design – Ellen Borish
Properties – Susan Reeves
Sound Design – Natalie Burkhart
Projection design – Doug Vandegrift
CAST (for reviewed performance)
Shafer Wilkerson – Beast
Mary Ridenour – Belle
Jared Kyle – Gaston
Luis Quezada – Lefou
Devon Watkins – Lumiere
Michael Hasty – D’Arque
Travis Miller – Maurice
Rob Parrott – Cogsworth
Jake Jones – Chip
Tasha Smith – Mrs. Potts
Noel Clark – Wardrobe
Ashtyn Campbell – Babette
Rachel Rosmann –#1 Silly Girl/Plate
Nicole Wicks –#2 Silly Girl/Napkin
Julina Durling –#3 Silly Girl
Brandi Giles –#4 Silly Girl/Napkin
Rebecca Reeves –#5 Silly Girl
Gabriella Rae – Plate
Emily Gordon – Napkin
Emma Simpson – Baker’s Wife/Milkmain
Jessica Huffman – Sausage Curl Girl
Lillian Rivas – Lady with Baby
Alyssa Meekins – Lady with Cane
Melissa Rodgers – Aristocrat Lady
Denise Jasper – Egg Woman
Daniel Lawson – Crony
Joshua Wallace – Book Seller/Crony/Wolf
Griffin Hoch – Hat Seller/Wolf
Rachel Medina – Shepherd
Benjamin Perkinson – Male Villager/Wolf
Riley Hilsinger, Eric Hilsinger, Madison Jones, Rosabella Rivas – Child Ensemble
Katie Billups – Teen Ensemble
Reviewed Performance: 5/26/2018
Reviewed by Angela Newby, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
Beauty and the Beast tells the story of a young women searching for something more in life when she gets caught up with an admirer, who she can’t stand, and then through her self-less act saves her father, but becomes a prisoner in an enchanted castle. The castle has been cursed due to the cruel master who turned away a person in need. Through this enchanted story, Belle and the rest of the enchanted castle help bring back the true person that the Beast has turned into. Does the beast turn back into the prince that he once was, or will he be destined to live life forever as the beast?
Originating from Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont’s fairy tale, Beauty and the Beast was then adapted by Disney. The animated version of Beauty and the Beast debuted in 1991 and then Disney again created the fantasy version of this beloved tale with live characters in 2017. Linda Woolverton (book), Alan Menken (music), and Howard Ashton (lyrics) and Tim Rice (lyrics) adapted it from the Academy Award winning animated version by Disney to the stage. This show has been performed in numerous cities across the United States and internationally as well.
Beauty and the Beast is a huge undertaking with costumes, choreography, and of course to find vocal talent that can withstand the constant action within the musical. Artisan Center Theater under the direction of John Wilkerson, hit the mark on all of these elements and so much more.
The set design by Steve Skidmore was carefully designed and well-executed. There are so many elements of Beauty and the Beast from the enchanted castle, to the tavern, to the center square of the town that it was hard to imagine how Artisan Center Theater would undertake this part of the show. Each corner held one of the locations listed above and then the painted cobblestone center stage changed through moving sets that were seamless and perfectly timed. The enchanted castle was beautiful and full of masculine furniture with deep rich royal colors of blue/purple with gold accents. The library was part of a moving element, but the projection of walls of books only enhanced the size of the library. The west wing was perfectly designed to show the duality of the Beast throughout the show.
The theater utilized four projection screens to help build the set above and beyond the physical limitations of the theater. Design by Doug Vandergrift used this element which was perfect for the town, woods, enchanted castle, but the tavern hit the mark with the stained glass Gaston and tavern feel. Without the projection the set would have been missing key elements needed for the show.
Natalie Burkhart was responsible for sound design. Overall the sound elements of wolves howling, dishes clattering, and the sounds of the town not only were timed well, but executed perfectly. Each sound fit within the scene and enhanced the performance. Although the soundtrack is beautiful with this show, it did overpower the actors’ vocals, and while it was adjusted through the show, there were still multiple times where it was hard to hear. There were also a few microphones on the actors that were either low or cutting in or out that it slightly detracted from the show. Other than these few issues, the sound design was excellent and showed thoughtful consideration to all that was going on around the stage.
Lighting design also by Natalie Burkhart flowed naturally throughout the show. Spotlights were perfectly timed and highlighted the corner of the stage that involved the action of the musical. The strobe light effect used during the attack of the wolves in the woods brought the element of suspense further to the audience, while the tavern held colorful aspects with a yellow tinge that fit perfectly with the inside of the building. The town and all outside elements were clear with bright colors that highlighted the acting. Lighting kept the tempo for the show and helped highlight the talent of the actors.
Costumes by Ellen Borish were one of my favorite elements of the night. The fabrics were rich, vibrant and regal for all elements surrounding the castle. Yet the townspeople while dressed perfect to the time period, held a more commoner element to them. The enchanted members of the castle where stunning in their elements. Cogsworth’s outfit highlighted his new body as a clock with the face of the clock painted on his own face, and the cutting of the outfit perfectly to design the mantle clock. Babette was gorgeous in her black maid outfit with feather boas building up her skirt. Belle looked stunning in her traditional blue dress, but both of her other dresses seemed to not fit right. Gaston looked perfect with his opened-chest shirt and black riding pants. I love the outfit on the asylum director with his silk three piece suit and top hat. The dishes were perfectly fit to each actor that they naturally became that piece of kitchen attire. My favorites though were the whisk and box grater! Costuming was perfect for every single cast member, but the Beast was phenomenal. From his overcoat and pants, each element was perfectly picked and rounded out his dual personalities.
Elisa Lavallee was the choreographer and rose to the challenges of the size of the stage and the amount of people in the ensemble scenes. The choreography flowed perfectly and utilized every element of the stage. While the dancers were focused on the steps, each one had a look of pure joy on their face and made the dance look easy and magical. The best aspect of the choreography was in “Be Our Guest” and “Gaston”. Each of these highlighted the talent of the cast.
Mary Ridenour as Belle was phenomenal. Vocally she was on fire especially in “A Change in Me.” Her harmony with every other cast member flowed beautifully through all the songs, and her talent was evident. Ridenour though really exuded the personality of Belle through her body language. With her crossed arms and stern glances as she dealt with Gaston, was countered with her adoring looks and affectionate touches with Maurice. Through both vocals and spoken lines, Ridenour, illuminated the stage and it was easy to see her love for her craft.
Beast, played by Shafer Wilkerson, is the cursed prince who must find someone to love him before time runs out. The struggle with this role comes from the duality of the character that struggles between overpowering and compassionate. Wilkerson filled this expectation and then exceeded it. He never broke character and each and every movement took into account this duality and displayed the one needed for the musical at the time of execution. While courting Belle at the beginning he stayed on his haunches as he ate in the chair, but in the Library Wilkerson lovingly interacts with Belle. Vocally Wilkerson was hard to hear due to those mic issues, but the power and sentiment behind them was clearly present. The emotion through “How Long Must This Go On” was soulful and heart wrenching. There could not have been a better Beast than Wilkerson.
Cocky, arrogant, bully, Jared Kyle excelled in his role as Gaston. Kyle’s body language was phenomenal and showed off each of these traits. Vocally, Kyle shined through both “Me” and “Gaston.” Physically he was able to prove he was “the strongest of them all” when he not only picked up his admirer’s, but also Lefou. His facial expressions were dead on and the raising of his eye-brow brought the audience to laughter every single time. The classic moves that one expects to find in Gaston were evident and center-stage, Kyle did not disappoint.
Lefou played by Luis Quezada was perfectly casted for this role. When one thinks of Lefou, they are expecting to see a clumsy buffoon who would do anything for Gaston and Quezada did not disappoint. Quezada’s facial expressions and mannerism were perfect and every single moment of slap-stick comedy that is used between him and Gaston was executed naturally. In “Gaston (Reprise)” Quezada was solid and hit every note perfectly. Quezada as Lefou was by far one of the best parts of the show!
Maurice, performed by Travis Miller, was heartwarming and touching. His wide eyes and gapping mouth showed his fear and confusion throughout the show. Miller fantastically showed Maurice’s love for Belle with thoughtful touches and sincere glances. Vocally Miller harmonized well with Ridenour in “No Matter What.” Every element of Maurice was carefully executed and showed the scatter-brained personality of this character.
Rob Parrot, portrayed Cogsworth fantastically. His stern appearance and flustered looks were perfect for this leader of the enchanted castle. Parrot’s red face and disappointing looks showed the audience his disproval of Lumier’s wilder side. His body language with his hands on his hips, only exasperated his tone of his lines. Parrot displayed an amazing talent of becoming his character in all shapes and forms.
Lumierer, played by Devon Watkins, consistently played the care-free candlestick. Watkins was a natural on the stage and flowed seamlessly between all of his character’s emotions. Watkins showed this attitude through his expressive facial expressions and his light on his feet movements.
Babette, played by Ashtyn Campbell is the wonderful maid of the enchanted castle. Campbell’s raised eyebrows, sashaying hips, and flirty laugh not only knew this role, but performed it well. Anytime Campbell would enter the stage, the energy raised and the audience ate it up. Her joy illuminated off of her. Campbell was one of the highlights of the show.
Noel Clark as Wardrobe was amazing. Vocally her operatic pieces were handled with ease and showed her power. Clark was one affected by mic issues as well, but never broke character and continued on as if no problem existed. Her facial expressions showed the distraught of being forgotten as she has lived in the enchanted castle.
The mother son duo of Mrs. Potts and Chip played by Tasha Smith and Jake Jones handled it fantastically. Smith, as Mrs. Potts, was motherly and powerful when needed as she stood up for Belle. Vocally in “Beauty and the Beast” she shined and brought forth the emotional appeal that heightens at that moment of the play. Jones as Chip was adorable and exuberant which brought out the child-like element that Chip is known for. His eyes lit up the stage and his grin was contagious.
The dance ensembles were rock stars. Not only was choreography executed well, but vocally they stood above, and their facial expressions exuded joy and the fun they were having on the stage. The element that surprised me the most was the depth of this ensemble that could go from the care-free attitude of drinking in the tavern, to the intense mob ready to storm the castle. In “Be Our Guest” every element was perfectly timed.
Beauty and the Beast was outstanding and each actor owned their role to make it one of the best shows I have seen all year. There was nothing lacking in this family-friendly show. Audience members of all ages enjoyed the enchanted members of the castle, and fell in love with Belle all over again. I loved seeing the look of awe of the face of the children in the audience that showed the joy of seeing live theater at its best. Artisan Theater Center has produced a show that will create a magical night of enchanted moments that will be an amazing start to your summer.
Artisan Center Theater
418 E. Pipeline Road
Hurst, Texas 76053
Runs through July 7th
Monday/Tuesday/Thursday/Friday/Saturday evening at 7:30 pm, and Saturday matinee at 3:00 pm.
Weekday tickets are $22.00 for adults/seniors/students and $10.00 for children 12 and under. Weekend tickets are $24.00, $12.00 for seniors 60+/students, and $12.00.00 for children. Group rate tickets are also available.
For information and to purchase tickets, go to www.artisanct.com or call the box office at 817-284-1200.