Regional Reviews: Phoenix
For the few out there who've never seen the film or the stage adaptation, or in case you need a reminder about the plot: The story begins once upon a time on a stormy night when a hideous beggar woman knocks on the door of a vain and arrogant prince and offers him a rose to provide her with shelter. He turns her away and when she reveals herself to be a beautiful enchantress, she casts a spell on him and everyone else in his castle for his lack of compassion. She tells him that the spell will be broken only if he is able to love another and earn her love in return. The prince is turned into a hideous beast, and all of his servants become inanimate objects. Years later, could the young woman named Belle who lives in a nearby village and who, through a series of circumstances, finds herself the prisoner of the beast in the castle be the woman who could break the spell?
Director Chris Hamby has done a fine job to ensure his large youth cast create characters that are familiar enough to those who know the cartoon originals. He also has them add some nice unique touches to make the characters original. Just about every joke in the script lands, along with the romance, drama, tension, suspense, and important life lessons in the piece. Paul Pederson's lively, fresh and fun choreography provides many showstopping moments. Music director Ken Goodenberger achieves some beautiful vocals from the large cast.
Dori Brown's expansive set design, which includes a wide and elaborate set for the Beast's castle, including two revolving sections that portray castle rooms and colorful scrims and other set pieces, and Jeff A. Davis' sumptuous lighting, which uses shadows and darkness in several scenes to beautifully echo the tension and drama in the show, expertly create the imaginary world of the film on stage. Bobby Samples' media design features vibrant and lush video projections that complement and add to the exceptional stage images. The creative and highly imaginative costumes by Kathi Miller and Brenda Moulder and the hair and make-up design by DeAndrea Vaughn beautifully bring the film characters to life on stage, but they don't simply rely on creating carbon copies of the movie designs and include plenty of original touches throughout. I especially love how Cogsworth's face is turned into the face of a clock, with the numbers on his forehead, cheeks and beard.
The cast is very good. With a combination of determination, spunk, devotion and intelligence, Addison Bowman provides many layers and an abundance of nuance in her portrayal of Belle. As the Beast, Anand Khalsa is superb. The Beast is the character that changes the most in the show, and Khalsa beautifully depicts how he changes from a snarling, selfish man-child into a man who truly cares for those around him. His singing voice soars and his solo "If I Can't Love Her" is incredibly moving. Teddy Ladley is hilarious as the boastful and boorish Gaston, the conceited, muscle head who can't understand why Belle isn't attracted to him. Ladley has impeccable stage presence and comic timing along with a stellar singing voice that shines.
In the supporting cast, Jared Barbee and Finnegan Clisham a fun twosome as the bickering buddies Lumière and Cogsworth, and Josh Pike is appropriately broad as Gaston's comical sidekick Lefou. McKenna Spanko is good as Mrs. Potts, ensuring her sensible and charming nature is clearly depicted, and Evan Culbertson is sweet as Belle's devoted father. In cameo bits, Terese Sanchez, Macie Thompson, and Mila Martinez all shine.
Not only was Disney's Beauty and the Beast the first animated film to be nominated for a Best Picture Academy Award, but the stage adaptation has become one of the most loved and frequently produced musicals. TheaterWorks' Youth Works production has a strong cast and superb creative aspects that recreate on stage the magical and heartwarming moments from the hit film while adding plenty of original touches and creative aspects to deliver a solid production of this beloved musical.
Disney's Beauty and the Beast, through May 19, 2019, at Theater Works, 8355 West Peoria Avenue, Peoria AZ. For tickets and information, visit theaterworks.org or call 623-815-7930
Directed by Chris Hamby