Review: Disney's BEAUTY AND THE BEAST Splendidly Presented to Perfection by Torrance Theatre Company
Disney's BEAUTY AND THE BEAST with music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice, and book by Linda Woolverton, is the classic story of Belle, a beautiful young woman in a provincial town, and the Beast, who is really a handsome young prince trapped by a horrendous spell placed upon him by an enchantress for turning her out into the cold rather than providing her shelter in his castle. The life-affirming, family-friendly musical presented by Torrance Theatre Company centers around how Belle teaches the Beast to learn to love and be loved so the curse will end and the Prince will be transformed back into his former self. And with the curse extended to every member in the Beast's household, from Cogsworth the clock to Lumiere the candlestick and Mrs. Potts' tea pot, as well as silverware and dishes, time is running out for all of them.
You see, prominently placed under glass on a balcony in the Beast's West Wing is an enchanted red rose, rather than a traditional hour glass, with its dropping petals determining the time remaining for the Beast to find love to break the spell. And when the last petal drops, if real love has not been found and reciprocated, the Beast and everyone in his household will be doomed to their transformed half-human beings forever. But how can the Beast find a woman with enough heart to love him if she cannot see past his frightening appearance and roaring demeanor? Of course, we know Belle is the perfect woman to tame the Beast, but how will she ever meet him?
To complicate matters, Belle is being pursued by Gaston, a handsome, muscular and horribly self-centered young man in her village, who is pursued by every other young woman for his physical charms, other than Belle who is more interested in reading her beloved books and supporting her father Maurice in his pursuit to become a great inventor. Resisting Gaston's marriage proposal does not sit well with him, so he enlists the help of his sidekick Le Fou to steal Maurice away and leave him in the woods. Once there alone, poor Maurice is attacked by wolves and barely escapes with his life to search for shelter, which leads him to the Beast's castle. And it is Belle's search for her father that leads her there where she soon falls in love with the enchanted castle, its dancing and singing household staff, and soon meets the Beast she will transform with love. But not if Gaston can intercede.
The Torrance Theatre Company production features a live twelve-piece orchestra conducted to perfection by Bradley Hampton, and a cast of 44 actors from all over Southern California, who donate their time and talent to bring high-quality theatrical performances to Torrance and the South Bay. Assisted by a team of backstage wonder workers, from the stage hands to the costume and wig dressers, the cast is brilliantly led by brunette beauty Brianna Liddi as Belle, Christopher Tiernan who brings just the right mix of brutality and humanity to The Beast (highlighted during his Act 1 closing solo "If I Can't Love Her"), handsome and muscular Jayson Ziegenhagen as Gaston, Matt Garber as his comical sidekick Le Fou, Ruben Morales as Belle's father Maurice, Jacob Asaro as the sassy French candelabra Lumiere, Jonathan Strand as the very British clock Cogsworth, Elizabeth Bouton as Mrs. Potts, the Cockney tea pot who gloriously sings the title song to celebrate the love which has grown between BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, Olivia Liddi as Chip the Tea Cup, Mackenzie Hamilton as the opera-singing vain vanity Madame La Grande Bouche, Angelica Roqué as Babette the French maid, Ryan Johnson as the evil D'Arque, and Allison Boetthcer, Alyssa Jaffe and Rachel Geis as the comical blonde, brunette and redhead Silly Girl trio who pursue Gaston to the best of their flirty abilities.
And I cannot forget to offer monumental kudos to the entire Torrance Theatre Company ensemble who go from provincial peasants to magical creatures in the woods, to the singing and dancing household utensils with such joy and flare to make you forget your troubles for a few hours and get whisked away into the theatre magic from start to finish in this brilliant production. The complicated choreography, especially during Gaston and Le Fou's beer stein tapping number "Gaston," the show's opening number "Belle," and the entertaining "Be Our Guest" with forks, knives, spoons, plates, salt & pepper shakers, as well as an assortment of kitchen utensils all singing and dancing their talents across the stage!
The overall number of technically-challenging scenes requiring a large stage with fly space to allow quick changes, not to mention costume and lighting needs for the fantasy settings as well as a large enough, multi-talented cast of triple-threat performers to tell the story, makes Disney's BEAUTY AND THE BEAST a challenge for theater companies to present with enough flare to dazzle its audiences with magic and wonder.
Such is the experience I guarantee you will have by rounding up your friends and family and getting to the James Armstrong Theater to experience the Broadway-quality production now being presented as the 20th musical production by the City of Torrance, presented by Torrance Theatre Company, magnificently directed Jim Hormel, vocal direction by Stephen Amundson, and fun-filled energetic choreography by Niko Montelibano and cleverly creative costumes designed by Bradley Allen Lock, all under the care of Producing Artistic Director Gia Jordahl.
Torrance Theatre Company's magical production of Disney's BEAUTY AND THE BEAST runs for only two weekends at the James Armstrong Theater, 3330 Civic Center Drive in Torrance, 90503. Performances are August 16, 17, 23, and 24 at 8 pm and August 17, 18 and 24 at 2 pm, and August 22 at 7 pm. Reserved seating for Adults is $40 with select discounts for children and 4-packs available. Tickets may be purchased by phone at (310) 781-7171 or online at www.TorranceTheatreCompany.com. As an extra bonus for fans of the story, children wearing costumes will be invited to join Belle and the Prince onstage after the performance for a group photo. Parents are invited to snap and capture the magical moment photo!
The Torrance Theatre Company is a program of the Cultural Services Division of the Torrance Community Services Department. www.TorranceCA.Gov . Sponsored in part by Friends of Torrance Theatre Company. www.TorranceTheatreCompany.com