URI's second show this 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 bookisk Belle. They must learn to love each other after he makes her a prisoner in his desolate castle. Belle could melt the ice cap and indeed, even his heart. But will she 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 college musical presentation. Director Paula McGlasson, music director Lila Kane and choreographer Denise Lachowski pick the best 33 member cast for these roles and their hard work earns them a very well deserved standing ovation at the close of the show.
Paula combines the comedy and pathos very well while Lila gets the best sound out of the cast and her 7 piece orchestra with her on keyboards and Denise creates some splendid dance numbers including can can, tap, soft shoe and ball room dancing. Paula is also aided in this huge undertaking by some topnotch behind the scenes people. David Howard does a magnificent job with the multitude of gorgeous costumes in the show from the townspeople to the household items to Belle's beautiful gowns. The wonderful sets of the town with two story buildings, the forest and the inside of the castle are by Cheryl deWardener while the lovely mood setting lighting is by Christian Wittwer.
The fantastic leads of this show are Tiffany Page as Belle and Brad Kirton as the Beast. She is stunning brunette with a fabulous soprano voice which soars off the charts in her many numbers including "Belle", (where you learn she is a bookworm and the townspeople find her odd) "Is This Home" (where she laments being held a prisoner in the castle) and "A Change in Me" (where she admits she finally loves the Beast) Tiffany's strong voice is matched by her strong acting ability. She gives Belle a backbone to stand up to the Beast's rude behavior as well as fending off Gaston's obnoxious advances. Belle is determined to control her life and is head strong at times but finally sees through the tough exterior of the Beast to find the good within him. The audience loves Tiffany as Belle and they root for a happy ending. She and Brad do a great job together in their scenes. Brad's Beast is scary at first because he doesn't know how to act around a lovely young woman but he also conveys the humorous side of the Beast especially in the eating and reading scene with Belle where he gobbles his food down with his hand, clumsily holds the chair out for her and grabs a bench and throws it down for her to read to him. The pathos of the Beast comes through in his solo "If I Can't Love Her" at the end of Act 1 finally evoking the sympathy for his character by this powerful song. The transformation into a handsome prince at the close of the show moves the audience to tears and is splendidly done. The falling rose petals on the happy couple is the perfect finishing touch to a marvelous show.
Chris Mahn is a hoot as Belle's absent-minded inventor, father, Maurice. His entrance in a car looking like it's from "Chitty, Chitty, Bang, Bang" is humorous while his love for his daughter is sincerely felt throughout the show and in their lovely ballad called "No Matter What". Donald Dallaire plays the scene stealing egomaniac, Gaston who constantly flexes his muscles while he beats up his sidekick, Lefou played with impish charm by Seth Finkle who gets to show off his voice with Donald and the chorus. Gaston's chauvanistic song, "Me" is hilarious where he wants Belle marry him whether she wants to or not while his other song "Gaston" is where he beats up all the men and shows off his chest hair to all the women making them faint ala Conrad Birdie. ( The three silly girls madly in love with Gaston are well played by Jenette DelMonaco, Haley Hanson and Leah Kolb.) Gaston turns into a villain in Act 2 when he hires the head of an insane asylum to lock up Maurice in the song "Maison De Lunes" which he sings with Seth and Joe Short (who just played Tom Joad in URI's last show, "The Grapes of Wrath") plays the sinister, M. D'Arque. Gaston's evil behavior continues when later on he incites the townsfolk in the Mob song to try and kill the Beast.
The biggest scene stealer in this show is URI junior, Dan DaCunha who plays the one of the Beast's servants, the candlestick, Lumiere. He is a triple threat performer in this show, singing, dancing and acting up a storm. Dan's French accent is perfect while his one liners and facial expressions are topnotch as are his interactions with all the other characters, too. He leads the chorus in two big singing and dancing numbers, "Be Our Guest" which has a multitude of dance steps in it including a kickline and the show stopping "Human Again" in Act 2 with ball room dancing amidst the joyous celebration. Erin Olson is marvelous as Mrs. Potts, the teakettle. Her warmth envelops Belle and her love for her son, Chip played wonderfully by child actor, Dylan Rosser. Erin gets to sing the title song which tugs at your heartstrings while the two leads fall in love with each other. Dylan does a great job with his acting and gets to show off his strong voice in his solo lines in the songs. Veteran actor Richard Blue plays the major domo, who is a clock called Cogsworth. ( I first directed Richard in "Little Foxes" in 1980) He is at ease playing dramatic roles as well as comic ones and shows off his talent for the latter one in this show. The ultra sexy Babette who is in love with Lumiere is played by Jackie Marfuggi who is also a dynamite choreographer and dancer. She gets to strut her stuff in the dance numbers. The wardrobe is well played Alison Kantrowich who gets to show off her operatic soprano voice in the defending of the castle in the Mob song. (Patrick Cullen, Brad Kirton and Erin Olson do an excellent job in the many exits and entrances while choreographing this fight sequence.) A wonderful job is done by the rest of this multitalented cast, too. So for a Broadway style show performed by the fantastic URI theatre department, be sure to catch "Beauty and the Beast". You definitely won't be disappointed.