The third show of Reagle Player's 38th season is Disney's "Beauty and the Beast". The show first opened on April 19, 1994 and is still running on Broadway. Based on the 1991 Disney movie, the show tells the story of a spell cast on a Prince which transformed him into a ferocious beast. He must love and be loved before the last petal falls from the rose or he will be a beast forever. Into his life comes beautiful, bookish Belle. They must learn to love each other after he makes her a prisoner in his desolate castle. Belle could melt the ice and indeed, even his heart. But will she see through his facade in time? Throw in many colorful characters including her inventor father, Maurice, the town strongman. Gaston, his crazy sidekick, Lefou and the numerous enchanted humans turned into household fixtures at the Beast's castle and you have the makings of this outstanding musical presentation. Director Kate Swan casts all these adult and child roles perfectly which earns them a well deserved standing ovation at the close of the show by a very appreciative audience.
Kate combines the comedy and pathos of the show very well and music director Paul Katz taught all of the songs to the cast including some wonderful harmonies. Jeff Leonard conducts the topnotch orchestra while Eileen Grace choreographs some splendid dance numbers including a can can, tango, kickline, soft shoe and beer mug choreography, too. (Her dancers are of the highest caliber around.)The excellent scenery by ZFX Inc. and gorgeous costumes by Terry Schwab from Cumberland County Playhouse and Miguel Angel Huidor from North Shore Music Theatre add to the splendor of the show which is beautifully lit by Michael Jarrett.
The phenomenal leads of this show are Sarah Pfisterer as Belle and Fred Inkley as the Beast. She is a gorgeous gal with a stunning soprano voice that soars off the charts in all her numbers including "Belle" where the audience learns she is a bookworm and that the townspeople thing she is odd, "Home" where she laments being held a prisoner in the castle and in "Change in Me" where she finally admits her love for the Beast. Sarah's glorious voice is matched by her strong acting ability where she gives Belle the backbone to stand up to Gaston's obnoxious advances as well as to the Beast's rude behavior. Belle is determined to control her life but finally sees through the tough exterior of the Beast to find true happiness at last. (She also gets to show off her dancing prowess in the kickline finale of "Be Our Guest".) Sarah makes the audience root for a happy ending and she captures their hearts while doing so. Brava. Fred is one of the best Beasts around. He infuses this gruff creature with the right amount of humor to control his ferocious behavior. Fred's fabulous tenor voice soars in "If I Can't Love Her" by tugging on your heartstrings to close Act 1 and he obtains the empathy of the audience with his earnest plea for understanding. His transformation into a handsome prince at the close of the show moves the audience to tears, giving the perfect finishing touch to a fantastic entertaining musical masterpiece.
Edward Watts is perfect as the egomaniac, Gaston who constantly flexes his muscles. (He is one of the only actor's I've seen play Gaston who uses his own muscles for the role and doesn't need fake muscles or padded ones.) His strong acting ability shines through and he is hilarious and buffoon like in Act 1 but turns evil and villainous in Act 2. Edward's strong baritone voice is used in the chauvinistic song "Me" where he wants Belle to marry him whether she wants to or not and again in "Gaston" where he beats up his sidekick, Lefou while he flexes and does a beer mug dance with the cast. His evil behavior is seen when he hires the head of an insane asylum to lock up Belle's father in "Maison de Lunes" which he sings with Paul Reynolds as the sinister, M. D'Arque and Lefou. Gaston also incites the townsfolk in the Mob song and tries to kill the Beast. Paul Giragos is a hoot as the dumb and bumbling, Lefou. He leads the chorus in "Gaston" and executes his many pratfalls wonderfully. Harold Walker portrays Belle's inventor father, Maurice. He enters the stage in an old fashioned car that he is entering in a contest. Harold captures a father's love for his daughter throughout the show.
M. Zach Bubolo does a comical job as Lumiere, the candlestick who is one of the Beast's servants. He leads the chorus in the town big singing and dancing numbers, "Be Our Guest" which has a tango, kickline, soft shoe plus a multitude of other dance steps in it as well as "Human Again" in Act 2. Beth Gotha does a great job as Mrs. Potts, the teakettle. Her warmth envelops Belle to make her welcome in the castle and her love for her son, Chip, played wonderfully by 10 year old, Sam Blumenfeld, shines through. Beth sings "Beauty and the Beast" as Belle and the Beast fall in love with each other. Roy Earley also does a comic turn as the fuss budget, major domo, who is a clock called Cogsworth. He, Beth and Zach have many funny bits which earns them many laughs throughout the show. The sexy maid, Babette who is in love with Lumiere is played by Melissa Beauregard while the former opera singer who is now a wardrobe is played by Rachelle Riehl who gets to show off her voice after she is turned back into an opera singer again. Kudos to the hardworking singing and dancing chorus and children's chorus who do a great job, too. So for a Broadway show right in MA, be sure to catch "Beauty and the Beast" which will entertain the whole family in an air-conditioned theater. Tell them Tony sent you.