BWW Review: BEAUTY AND THE BEAST at The Wick Theatre
The story of Beauty and the Beast is set in a provinciAl Small town in France and features a beautiful and bright young heroine named Belle, her handsome and loutish suitor Gaston, a cursed young prince and an enchanted castle. The morals of the story are: true beauty is more than skin deep, and love has a redemptive power. A romantic fairy tale fantasy for people of all ages, this is a show designed to be filled with special effects and illusions as well as dazzling production numbers and costuming.
We all have the animated version of Beauty and the Beast planted firmly in our heads. Though it is not possible to bring the exact same style of fantasy to the stage generated by animation, gifted designers and modern technology can be brought together to create a magic that works well on stage. The scenic design for this production at The Wick features rotating set pieces fancifully decorated, and some imaginative and well -executed projection design. The delightful vehicle/automated wood-chopper driven by Belle's father Maurice looks much like a contraption created by the father in "Chitty, Chitty, Bang, Bang". I do take issue with the motion graphics used when it comes to the scenes where the characters are interacting with the wolves. When Maurice is running away from the wolves, and Belle and the Beast are fighting with them, the audience is acutely aware of the separation of the human actor and the animated creatures on a screen. It takes the urgency out of these acting moments, and lowers the quality of the production value for those brief moments. Other special effects such as the Beast's transformation at the end of the show work beautifully, and the lighting and sound design are well done throughout the show except for microphone volume in the opening number. We didn't quite catch all the solo lines being sung by the many ensemble members in "Belle". It's such an entertainingly written piece, with each townsperson establishing their character with usually exaggerated vocal choices, it's a shame to miss a single line. The use of tracked accompaniment rather than live musicians actually works well for this show, and the balance between singers and tracks was good. One odd moment occurs during the dance break in the song "Gaston" however, when the tracks cut out for a lengthy section and people are dancing to silence.
The Wick Theatre is blessed to have access to an astonishing array of costumes, as Managing Executive Producer Marilyn Wick is also owner of Costume World Theatrical. The costumes for this show are wonderfully colorful and detailed. If you are a fan of the iconic costuming associated Beauty and the Beast, you will surely not be disappointed in those ones worn by the Beast, Cogsworth, Lumiere, Babette, Mrs. Potts, the Wardrobe and Chip in this production. With over 65 wigs used for the show I couldn't help but notice how well the wigs and make-up were done even close up. From the living statuary in an earlier scene, to the dancing carpet, plates, silverware, napkins and ottoman, the stage is fully brought to life in the energetic "Be Our Guest".
Mallory Newbrough, who recently wowed Wick Theatre audiences with her portrayal of Janis Joplin in Beehive the 60's Musical, proves herself a talented and versatile actress with her performance as Belle. The role sits well in her voice, and she truly acts every moment in her songs as demonstrated in "Home" and "There's Been a Change in Me". She has the perfect physicality for this non-traditional Disney Princess. She is graceful without being coy or submissive, and deftly conveys the conflict and growth of Belle as she falls in love with the Beast.
Loren Christopher ably acts his way through the potentially cumbersome mask and wigs of the Beast to show the humor and sensitivity of the man that lies within. His momentary hesitations and gooffiness when trying to be a gentleman allow Belle the pathway through which to grow to be fond of him. His singing voice is very good, particularly in "If I Can't Love Her", but the suddenly increased roundness and clarity of sound with which he sings in the very last number would indicate that we are losing some of that earlier in the show through his latex and fur. His voice is too good to lose an of it.
Jacob Thompson is perfection as Gaston. His handsome looks, conceited swagger, and gorgeously rich singing voice, are matched with spot-on comic timing. He nails every one of his acting bits, and works like a well-oiled machine with his scene partner Lefou played by Courter Simmons. Thompsons facial reactions were so entertaining, I had a hard time watching other people when he was on stage. Courter Simmons has the unenviable task of playing a character that is by it's very nature a caricature. As Lefou he is physically as agile as a gymnast through all of the slap-stick styled comedy, and as convincingly buffoonish as a professional clown. He does an admirable job in a demanding role, and is the other half of the aforementioned well-oiled machine made up of Gaston and Lefou.
What of our beloved trio of caretakers of the castle made up of Cogsworth, Mrs. Potts and Lumiere? Kevin Robert Kelly is endearing as the worried and excitable Cogsworth. Angie Radosh inexplicably is without an English accent as Mrs. Potts, and plays the role as stern rather than maternal. Her characterization is lacking in warmth and a feeling of a true connection to Cogsworth or Lumiere. Despite his French accent slipping in and out, Jonathan Van Dyke is charming as the flirtatious and hopeful Lumiere. He and as Cogsworth are great together establishing the feeling of old cronies. Van Dyke is also well paired with Emily Tarrallo as the enticing Babette.
Krystal Bly is funny as the fussy Wardrobe, Madame de la Grande Bouche, and sings the heck out of all the high notes in the ensemble numbers. Troy Stanley is well suited to the role of Belle's bumbling father Maurice. Various other cast members are featured in dance numbers and brief scenes in the show.
This production features a large adult ensemble as well as a high school ensemble of first time professional theatre performers. With lavish production moments, grand costumes, beloved characters, big dance numbers, familiar songs, and strong performances by Mallory Newbrough as Belle, Loren Christopher as the Beast, and Jacob Thompson as Gaston, this is the family musical to see!
Disney's Beauty and the Beast premiered on Broadway on April 18, 1994 at the Palace Theatre. The musical received mixed reviews from theatre critics, but was a massive commercial success. The original Broadway production was nominated for nine Tony Awards, winning for Best Costume Design. It ran on Broadway for 5,461 performances before closing in 2007.
Composer Alan Menken is best known for his numerous scores for films produced by Walt Disney Animation Studios such as The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and Pocahontas, each of which won him two Academy Awards. He also composed the scores for The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Hercules, Enchanted and Tangled. Menken has received a total of eight Oscar Awards.
Lyricist Tim Rice is probably best known for his collaborative work with Andrew Lloyd Webber on the musicals Jesus Christ Superstar, Evita and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. He also wrote the lyrics for Chess (music by Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus) and The Lion King (with music by Elton John). Rice received both an Oscar and a Golden Globe Award in 1993 for the song "A Whole New World" from the film Aladdin. Lyricist Howard Ashman collaborated with composer Alan Menken on the films The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast and Alladin. He also wrote the book and lyrics for the musicals Little Shop of Horrors and Smile.
This production of Beauty and the Beast is scheduled to appear through July 9, 2017 at The Wick Theatre located at 7901 N. Federal Highway in Boca Raton, Florida. Scheduled performances for this production are matinees Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays at 2pm; evenings Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays at 7:00pm. Tickets are $40 - $70. The Wick Theatre is a year-round, professional theatre company hiring local and non-local Equity and Non-Equity actors and actresses. In addition to a theatre, they also house a Broadway costume museum and a fine dining restaurant, The Tavern at the Wick. For more information you may contact them by phone at 561-955-2333, 561-955-2333 or online at www.thewick.org.
Beast: Loren Christopher*
Belle: Mallory Newbrough
Gaston: Jacob Thompson*
LeFou: Courter Simmons*
Maurice: Troy Stanley
Cogsworth: Kevin Robert Kelly
Lumiere: Jonathan Van Dyke
Mrs. Potts: Angie Radosh*
Chip: Alexa Lasanta
Babette: Emily Tarrallo
Wardrobe (Madame de la Grande Bouche): Krystal Bly
Adult Ensemble: Christopher Alvarez, Sean Davis, Adam Flagella, Jeannine Gangloff, Leigh Green, Missy McArdle, Gianina Mugavero, Tommy Paduano, Mikey Reichert, Sarah Rose, Ashley Rubin, Louie San Luis, Arrow Zurschmiede, Blake Rubin
High School Ensemble: Alexia Assuncao, Sven Ballarte, Zachary Gropper, Elliott Mahon, Allegra Mannarino, Samantha O'Donnell
Director: Dom Ruggiero
Choreographer: AngeLa Morando-Taylor
Musical Director: Eric Alsford
Scenic Design: Kelly Tighe
Costume Design: Kimberly Wick
Lighting Design: Jose Santiago
Sound Design: Justin Thompson
Projection/Motion Graphics Design: Josieu Jean
Make-Up Artist: Mark Balli
Production Stage Manager: Amy London*
* Denotes Member of Actor's Equity, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States.