Theatre Mirror Reviews "Beauty And The Beast, Jr."

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entire contents copyright 2012 by Tony Annicone

"Beauty And The Beast, Jr"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

The Encore Kids current show is Disney's "Beauty and the Beast,Jr". The show first opened on April 19, 1994 and ran for 5,464 performances, closing on July 29, 2007. It is 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 topnotch musical presentation. Director Brian Kelly casts this show perfectly, earning them a well deserved standing ovation by a very appreciative audience.

Brian combines the comedy and pathos of the show beautifully and music director Ryan DeWolfe taught all of the songs to the cast including some wonderful harmonies. He plays keyboards for the show. Meaghan Bruneault choreographs some splendid dance numbers including a can can, tango, kick line, soft shoe and a waltz. Stage manager Mike Landry keeps the scene changes moving briskly all night long. The multitude of gorgeous costumes are by Lauren Schmidt.

The two leads are played by Emily Dufour as Belle and Justin Vieira as the Beast. She has an amazing soprano voice which is heard in all her numbers including "Belle" where the audience learns she is a bookworm and the townspeople think she is odd, "Home" where she laments being held prisoner in the castle and in "Home" reprise where she finally admits her love for the Beast. Emily 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. Emily is a gorgeous brunette who is only 15 years old. She makes the audience root for a happy ending and captures their hearts while doing so. Justin plays the Beast with a lot of intensity. He infuses this gruff creature with the right amount of humor to control his ferocious behavior. Justin's tenor voice tugs at your heartstrings in "If I Can't Love Her" at the close of Act 1 and obtains the audience's empathy 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 splendid finishing touch to this show.

Gian DiCostanzo is topnotch as the egomaniac, Gaston who constantly flexes his muscles. His acting ability comes through in this role as he acts like a comic buffoon in Act 1 and turns evil and villainous in Act 2. I loved his mispronunciation of rendezvous. Gian's strong voice is heard in the chauvinistic part of the song "Belle" 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 dances 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 Nathan Medeiros as the sinister, M. D'Arque and Lefou. Gaston also incites the townsfolk in the Mob song and tries to kill the Beast. Zachary Zambarano is a hoot as the dumb and bumbling, Lefou. He leads the chorus in "Gaston" and executes many pratfalls wonderfully. His comic timing is terrific, too. Sean Leehan portrays Belle's inventor father, Maurice. He enters the stage in an old fashioned contraption which he is entering in a contest. Sean captures a father's love for his daughter in this role and shows off his voice with Emily in "No Matter What".

Adam Landry does a terrific job as Lumiere, the candlestick who is one of the Beast's servants. He delivers his hilarious lines wonderfully and leads the chorus in the two biggest song and dance numbers, "Be Our Guest" which includes a kick line, a soft shoe, a tango plus other dance steps, too as well as in "Human Again" in Act 2. "Be Our Guest" is a show stopper. Audrey Catalano does a marvelous job as Mrs. Potts, the teakettle. Her warmth envelops Belle as she welcomes her into the castle and her love for her son, Chip played wonderfully by Sarah Milch, shines through. Audrey's lovely voice is heard in "Beauty and the Beast'' as they fall in love with each other as well as in "Be Our Guest". Matthew Desmarais does a comic turn as the fuss budget, major domo, who is a clock called Cogsworth. He, Audrey and Adam have many funny bits which wins them much laughter during the show. The sexy maid, Babette who is in love with Lumiere is played by Meghan Lydon while the former opera singer, Madame De La Grande Bouche who is now a wardrobe is played by Emily Garven who gets to show off her soprano voice after she is turned back into an opera singer again. The three Silly Girls who are madly in love with Gaston are played by Megan Choate, Mary Malloy and Bianca Volpicelli. Kudos to the singing and dancing chorus who do a great job in this show. So for an entertaining evening, be sure to catch "Beauty and the Beast" before they dance out of town. These young people will have you cheering in the aisles.

"Beauty And The Beast, Jr." (9 - 11 March)
@ Encore Repertory Company, Stadium Theatre, Monument Square,WOONSOCKET RI

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide