Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Beauty And The Beast"

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entire contents copyright 2010 by Tony Annicone

"Beauty And The Beast"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

Hendricken Theatre's current show is Disney's "Beauty and the Beast". The show first opened on Broadway on April 19, 1994, ran for 5,464 performances, closing in September, 2007. It is based on the 1991 animated Disney movie, the show tells the story of a spell cast on a Prince that transformed him into a ferocious beast. He must love and be loved before the last petal falls from the rose or he will remain 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 cap and indeed, even his heart. But will she see through his facade in time? Add many colorful characters to the mix including her inventor father, Maurice, the town strongman, Gaston, his hilarious sidekick, Lefou and the numerous enchanted humans turned into household fixtures in the Beast's castle and you have the ingredients for a marvelous musical masterpiece which combines comedy and pathos to create a fantastic show that people of all ages can enjoy. Director Brian Codeiro, music director Richie Sylvia and choreographer Theresa Pearson take the 58 member cast and do a magnificent job with this musical. Their combined efforts are rewarded with a spontaneous standing ovation at the close of this magical tale .Bravo!

Brian casts topnotch students in all these roles and blocks them excellently from start to finish to capture your interest at all times. He pays attention to every detail in the show and surrounds himself with talented theater folks. Richie musically directs this show obtaining stunning harmonies from this student cast. Jarrod Gorman conducts a 22 piece orchestra. Richie makes the cast members shine in all their numbers including the solos and choral ones. Theresa choreographs many different type dances for this show including soft shoe, can-can, tango, a kick-line and a waltz. She obtains the best dance moves out of this cast with the three stopping group numbers,"Gaston" where the townspeople dance up a storm, "Be Our Guest" which is a vaudeville type of song in Act 1 and "Human Again" which turns into a huge dance number in Act 2. The multitude of gorgeous costumes in the show from the townspeople to the household items to Belle's beautiful gowns are by Janice Nagle with some of the leads costumes rented from Harris Costume. The excellent two story set of the inside of the castle was designed by Brian and built by Brother John Kiernan while the lovely mood setting lighting and sound are topnotch, too.

The outstanding leads of this show are Casey Cook as Belle and Casey Sheehan as the Beast. She is a stunning brunette with a fabulous soprano voice which soars off the charts in her many numbers including "Belle", where you learn she loves to read books and the townspeople find her odd, "Is This Home?" where she laments being held prisoner in the castle, and "A Change in Me" where she finally admits she loves the Beast because they have many things in common with each other. Casey's strong voice is matched by her topnotch 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 see through the gruff exterior of the Beast to find the good within him. The audience falls in love with as Belle and they root for a happy ending. She and Casey do an excellent job in their scenes together. Casey Sheehan'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 the food down with his hands, clumsily holds out the chair for her and throws a bench down so she can read to him. The pathos of the Beast comes through in his solo, "If I Can't Love Her", shows off his magnificent tenor voice, evoking the sympathy for his character with this powerful song. Casey is dynamic and authoritative as the master of his castle. The transformation into a prince at the close of the show moves the audience to tears and is splendidly executed. The falling rose petals on the happy couple is the perfect finishing touch to a marvelous show.

Ward Pettibone plays Belle's absent-minded father who gets lost in the woods, gets chased by wolves and ends up becoming the Beast's prisoner. Belle takes his place there and he returns to save her only to find out she has fallen for a gentler Beast. Ward and Casey Cook sing a tender ballad called "No Matter What" about how they have each other to depend on all the time. He does wonderful work as this older character and shows off his singing voice in this duet.(Ward is adept at funny roles, having played a comic waiter in "Scapino" in 2007.) Greg Duffy is topnotch as Gaston, the egomaniacal town strongman who wants to marry Belle whether she wants to or not. He stands around six foot two and as Gaston he is constant flexing and preening, making them laugh out loud moments. He plays this buffoon wonderfully and displays his powerful singing voice in "Me" where he tries to woo Belle while telling her how wonderful he is and in "Gaston" where the chorus fawns on him.(The laughing bubble-headed girls who adore him are beautifully played by Nicole Cayer, Jess Keane and Jade Genga and many others who also do wonderful work in a ballet section of the show.) Gaston turns into a villain in Act 2 when he decides to have Maurice committed to an insane asylum in "Maison Des Lunes" and in "The Mob Song" where he rouses the rabble to go and kill the Beast. The evil doctor, D'Arque who is his cohort is played with gusto by Matt Davey. One of the biggest scene stealers in this show is Ron Fitts as Lefou, Gaston's sidekick who is constantly beaten up, smacked on the head and in the face. He displays some of the best pratfalls, facial expressions and also uses his comic timing in his songs especially "Gaston" when he leads the chorus in a rousing dance and sings with Greg in the second act.

The servants of the Beast are excellent, too. Francesca Hansen-DiBello plays the kindly housekeeper, Mrs. Potts while clad in a teapot costume. She is marvelous in this role and shows off her lovely voice in a section of "Be Our Guest" and in the Academy-Award winning song, "Beauty and the Beast" which tugs at your heartstrings when the two leads fall in love with each other. Her warmth envelops Belle and her love for her son, Chip who is clad in a teacup costume is played by Josh Petteruti who shows off his strong singing voice in solo lines in "Human Again". The biggest scene stealer in the show is Graham Duff as the butler, Lumiere who has candlesticks for hands. His acting is astounding with a perfect French accent as is his tenor voice which is fantastic in two show-stopping numbers "Be Our Guest" and "Human Again". Lindsay Martin plays Babette, the ultra sexy vamp who is love with Lumiere. She struts her stuff in the dance numbers especially the tango with Graham in "Human Again". Luke LaMontagne plays Cogsworth, the major domo, who is a clock. He commands the other servants and barks orders at them in a comical manner using a high pitched voice. Madame de La Grand Bouche is Alex Andrews who gets to show off her operatic soprano voice in the defending the castle song. So for a terrific rendition of this well known show, be sure to catch "Beauty and the Beast" at Hendricken before it magically disappears from sight.

"Beauty And The Beast" (25 - 28 March)
@ 2615 Warwick Avenue, WARWICK RI
1 (401739-3450 ext 172

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide