Review: BEAUTY AND THE BEAST at Lewis Family Playhouse

lavish, entertaining, and sold out

By: Mar. 19, 2024
Review: BEAUTY AND THE BEAST at Lewis Family Playhouse
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Beauty and the Beast was a sold-out smash hit at the Lewis Family Playhouse in Rancho Cucamonga March 2nd through 10th.  A joint production of the Candlelight Pavilion and the Inland Pacific Ballet, this Disney musical was lavish and entertaining.

Review: BEAUTY AND THE BEAST at Lewis Family Playhouse
Inland Pacific Ballet in Beauty and The Beast

The marriage of ballet and Disney musical is a delightful one.  With entirely local Inland Empire dancers of all ages, from professionals to Academy dancers in their teens and adorable tiny little ones prancing in tutus, the Inland Pacific Ballet dancers bring dynamism, grace, elegance, and excitement to this show.  The wolves who menace Beauty, her father Maurice, and the Beast were beautifully played by dancers who were lithe and expressive and genuinely terrifying.  It was one of my favorite moments in the show.  Joshua Collins, an Inland Empire native who followed his grandparents into theatre and teaches acrobatics, stood out in the ensemble for his powerful, athletic, dynamic dancing.

Candlelight Pavilion was a family-run community dinner theatre for almost forty years, serving Claremont and the broader Inland Empire.  Their cult hit shows were hugely beloved and sold old fast.  The community was devastated when the Candlelight Pavillon survived COVID but was forced to close when condo development threatened their parking.  They are now looking for a new home, and in the time being, have partnered with the Inland Pacific Ballet and found a temporary theatre in the Lewis Family Playhouse.

Review: BEAUTY AND THE BEAST at Lewis Family Playhouse
Ensemble of Candlelight Pavilion
and the Inland Pacific Ballet

The tradition of dinner theatre in the United States originated around the midcentury, and grew in popularity through the 1970s, when dinner theatre employed most of the actors in United States.  But after the 1980s, dinner theatre slowly fell into obscurity.  I was astonished to learn that there was a thriving dinner theatre that existed locally around the Los Angeles region until recently.

In the spirit of dinner theatre, Beauty and the Beast can be more crowd pleasing and eager to entertain than it is precise or deeply felt.  At its worst, Beauty and the Beast can be distractingly bumpy in terms of performance, from heartfelt and beautiful moments to cringy schtick, with inconsistent levels of musical talent and uneven casting.  There is scattershot direction from Chuck Ketter, though he does great work on the set adaptation.

But there is much to love here on stage in this greatly entertaining musical.  I love the whimsical little moments in Beauty and The Beast, from the toy stuffed duck shot by Gaston falling from the ceiling to the way Allen Everman as Cogsworth makes the throwaway joke “If it’s not baroque, why fix it?” into a bravura, multi-minute glorious piece of comedy.

Lead Lissette Garrido as Belle is absolutely lovely, with fresh radiance, strength, and luminous innocence that light up the stage.  Other standouts include Gaston’s three ardent admirers, played by Johnisa Breault, Brianne Jackson, and Berlynn Milliken, who are imaginative, specific, and wildly hilarious.  I adored every single moment these three superb actresses were on stage.

Review: BEAUTY AND THE BEAST at Lewis Family Playhouse
Erica Marie Weisz, John LaLonde and ensemble

Beauty and The Beast shines in stagecraft and exuberant, fun-loving spectacle.  Costumes by Christa Percival, Nina Hickey, and Jean Nolden are inventive, colorful, luxuriant and delightful.  I was particularly charmed by the outrageous dancing cheese grater.  The wig design by Kirklyn Robinson is excellent.

The ensemble numbers in Beauty and The Beast are joyous, imaginative, and a feast for the eyes.  “Belle” and “Be Our Guest”, led by an exuberant and charismatic John LaLonde as Lumière, are massive, pull-out-all-the-stops numbers with everyone on stage from ballet dancers to singers to dancing forks to quarreling villagers and adorable, toddling little ones.  These big set pieces are extravagant and irresistible.  Candlelight Pavillon and the Inland Pacific Ballet certainly know how to bring down the house.

Seeing Beauty and the Beast was my first time at the Lewis Family Playhouse, a 536 seat theatre in a large civic complex, The Victoria Gardens Cultural Center, with a local library and convenient free parking.  It is attached to Victoria Gardens, a sprawling outdoor mall in Rancho Cucamonga.   I keep hearing that malls are dying and mall culture is dead, but Victorias Gardens was full of life on a Saturday night, with scenesters cruising around the blocks, recreating a lively modern American Graffiti.

Review: BEAUTY AND THE BEAST at Lewis Family Playhouse
Lissette Garrido stars as Belle
and Jonathan Sharp stars as The Beast

The Lewis Family Playhouse is a remarkably child-friendly theatre, with everyone from concessions to box office being very welcoming to small children.  Outside of Disneyland, this is one of the most family friendly entertainment venues I have attended.   I applaud the Lewis Family Playhouse and the city of Rancho Cucamonga for thinking about the cultural needs of families and those who want to introduce their young ones, ages three year and older, to the delights and education of theatre.  There were a large number of enthusiastic little Belles in attendance, all in their billowy ball gowns and finery, and the children in the audience seemed rapt and spellbound.  But the show was hardly confined to children.  Beauty and the Beast impressively succeeded at greatly entertaining a very diverse, sold-out audience, with lots of lively young friend groups, enthusiastic seniors, and cozy romantic date nights attending too.

Photos by 2024 Marsha McNeely Photography

You can find more musicals and theatre coming up at the Lewis Family Playhouse by calling (909) 477-2752 or by clicking the button below:




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