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BWW Review: Syracuse Stage Presents an Enchanting BEAUTY AND THE BEAST

BWW Review: Syracuse Stage Presents an Enchanting BEAUTY AND THE BEAST
Stephanie Craven and Ezekiel Andrew in the Syracuse Stage production of Beauty and the Beast.
Photo by Michael Davis.

Syracuse Stage and the Syracuse University Department of Drama is now enchanting audiences with their production of Disney's Beauty and the Beast. The musical is under the always superb direction of Donna Drake and musical director Brian Cimmet, the creative team that brought the last two holiday favorites to Syracuse Stage. Like their past productions, The Wizard of Oz and Elf their production of Beauty and the Beast kicks off the Holiday season with magical sets, costumes, and dazzling talent.

The musical features music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice, and a book by Linda Woolverton. The musical was adapted from the 1991 Disney animated film of the same name and was recently a live action film starring Emma Watson and Dan Stevens. The story of course tells the tale as old as time, the magic of love. A selfish Prince and his staff have been cursed by an Enchantress. The Prince has now been transformed into a monstrous Beast and in order for the spell to be broken the Beast must learn how to love and be loved. Who could ever love a Beast? The fate of the Beast and his castle staff are now in the hands of a kind and brave young woman named Belle who came to the castle to rescue her Father from the Beast. Belle's very own story unfolds in the magical castle.

That is exactly what the castle is in this production of Beauty and the Beast, magical. Czerton Lim's set design delivers breathtaking detail and allows for effortless scene changes. Lim always delivers mesmerizing sets but he has certainly outdone himself with this production. Katherine Freer's projection designs enhance the set features and allow every detail of the classic story to come to life right before your eyes. Speaking off the magic coming to life, Thomas C. Hase's lighting design and ZFX, Inc.'s flying effects allow for that famous and wondrous transformation to take place. The final result of all the stage effects is nothing but breathtaking.

Music director Brian Cimmet leads the live 12-piece orchestra, the largest ever for a Syracuse Stage show, to deliver the powerful, passionate, and familiar music. Of course, since it is the Broadway production there is plenty of new (for some audience members) musical numbers for all our favorite characters. No worries the Disney film favorites such as "Be Our Guest," "Something There," "Gaston," "Belle," and of course the title song "Beauty and the Beast" are all there. The music alone is enchanting.

How can you have Beauty and the Beast without the fun, energetic, and intricate choreography? This production has that as well with Anthony Salatino's winning dance and fight choreography. Salatino's choreography is everything you expect and more in numbers such as "Gaston," "Be Our Guest," and "The Mob Song." The entire ensemble delivers all the flips, spins, and more; with intoxicating and flawless energy.

Taking on the role of Beast is opera and musical theater performer Ezekiel Andrew with his commanding stage presence, passionate vocals, and spot on line delivery. He delivers a mesmerizing performance. His rendition of the powerful and passionate number "If I Can't Lover Her" ends Act I with a bang. Andrew's portrayal is absolutely chilling from Beast's growling anger to his soft and loving side.

Syracuse University Department of Drama's student Stephanie Craven, a senior musical theatre major, takes on the iconic role of Belle. Craven is absolutely stunning in the role. From her captivating stage presence to her empowering vocal skills she is everything one would expect as Belle and much more. It is her rendition of "A Change in Me" that brings the house down. Craven is Disney magic on the stage.

Steve Czarnecki portrays Gaston, that rude brute that only wants Belle for her looks. The musical number "Gaston," with its intricate and entertaining choreography by Anthony Salatino, proves to be an audience favorite. Czarnecki's performance is a highlight of the show as his confidence and skill take center stage. Ethan Carlson charms in the comedic role of LeFou with his spot-on comedic timing, line delivery, and dance skills.

Michael Breese Barbour as Maurice delivers a heartwarming "No Matter What" along with Stephanie Craven. Barbour is picture perfect for the role.

The staff of the Beast's castle showcase delightful chemistry and stage presence. Jordan De Leon charms as Lumiere, the candelabra. De Leon's performance is top-notch in the iconic hit "Be Our Guest" along with the stellar ensemble. David Lowenstein as Cogsworth is character acting at its finest level. Lowenstein's expression never disappoints and is always a highlight. Cicily Daniel's as Mrs. Potts delivers a gorgeous rendition of the title number "Beauty and the Beast." Celia Madeoy as Madame de la Grande Bouche, the wardrobe, is glorious in the role as her operatic vocals soar throughout the theatre. Syracuse University Drama student performer Emily Britt as Babette holds her own next to all the Equity actors who take on roles of the staff. Britt lights up the stage as Babette with her memorable performance, accent, and confidence. Local seventh grader, Harper Shute, takes on the role of that adorable tea cup, Chip. With all this talent together to portray the staff "Human Again" was spot on perfection.

BWW Review: Syracuse Stage Presents an Enchanting BEAUTY AND THE BEAST
The company of the Syracuse Stage production of Beauty and the Beast.
Photo by Michael Davis.

The entire ensemble delivers knockout performances as they take on numerous roles and show off their high kicks, flips, and charm in the big musical numbers such as "Belle," "Be Our Guest," "Gaston," "The Mob Song," and many more. A few standouts include Carly Caviglia, Anju Cloud, and Haley Wright as they show off their spunk as those Silly Girl's so obsessed with Gaston. Blake Brewer as Monsieur D'Arque in "Maison des Lunes" as well as Joshua Keen, Noah Lentini, JT Tully IV as the wolves all deliver excellent performances.

The costumes from Maine State Theatre and coordinated by Gretchen Darrow-Crotty bring the magic to life with the breathtaking and detailed costumes. Yes, the iconic yellow dress is there for "Beauty and the Beast." The production is truly picture perfect.

Once again Syracuse Stage has a Holiday hit on their hands thanks to Donna Drake's impeccable direction. Drake's direction of the Holiday musical at Syracuse Stage has certainly become a tradition to look forward to. The set, the special effects, the music, and most of all the stellar cast makes this enchanting production of Beauty and the Beast a must see for the Holidays.

Running Time: Approximately two hours and thirty-five minutes with one twenty-minute intermission.

Beauty and the Beast runs through January 5, 2020 at Syracuse Stage located at 820 E. Genesee Street, Syracuse, New York 13210. For tickets and information on this production click here.

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From This Author Natasha Ashley