Theater Review: Beauty & the Beast – “A Must See”
By Megan Wirts
LionHeart Productions has done it again!
Since 1997 LionHeart Productions has been sharing the love of theater with the people of Newaygo County and beyond. This seasons fall musical is the stage adaptation of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Howard Ashman & Tim Rice, book by Linda Wolverton.
Under the brilliant direction of Dana McKnight this classic fairy tale comes to life before our very eyes at the Grant Fine Arts Center November 4-6 and 11-12. This is her first foray with directing a musical production and we all hope that it is not her last.
In case you are not familiar with this beloved tale, it begins with a handsome prince rudely turning away a beautiful enchantress disguised as...
...an old woman. Due to his ugliness towards her she casts a spell on him and his castle, turning him into a ghastly beast and his many servants into living household objects. For the spell to be lifted The Beast must find someone to love and be loved in return. Which is where Belle comes in.
She is taken prisoner by The Beast instead of her eccentric inventor father, Maurice. With a candlestick, feather duster, grandfather clock, teapot, teacup and operatic wardrobe trying desperately to get Belle to fall in love with their master, what could go wrong? Plenty. Especially with the boorish Gaston vying for the affections of the most beautiful and intelligent, Belle. A tale as old as time indeed.
The bookish and brave young Belle, is played by Kayla Sluka, who is charming and lovely in the role. Her voice is a gift to anyone that is listening. From the first note she sings in the first scene’s “Belle”, you will be drawn in by her crystal-clear and powerful voice. In her two solos, “Is This Home?” and “A Change in Me”,Sluka truly shines and proves herself to be a sensational leading lady.
Lukas Sweers gives a commanding performance as The Beast. The way that Sweers bounds across the stage makes The Beast seem like a savage animal. The moment he let out the very first booming “ROAR!”, myself and those around me jumped out of our seats. His solo, “If I Can’t Love Her”, that ends the first act, lets him show off his outstanding voice. In the second act as The Beast and Belle fall in love, Sweers portrays The Beast’s softer and more humorous side excellently.
Gaston, the brainless and brawny villain, is portrayed by Landon Vandever. Vandever’s vocal ability is phenomenal as are his acting chops. You will love to hate his version of Gaston, the excellent expectorator. He and his sidekick Lefou, played by the talented Nick Koogler, give great comedic relief. The Silly Girls are also quite hilarious, played by Dana Chambers, Randi Koogler and Gabby Horrisberger, as they fawn over Gaston.
Then there are the enchanted household objects. Lumiere, the flashy candlestick, is brought to life by the incredible Dreisen Aue. Aue’s lead off on the show stopping “Be Our Guest” will leave you wanting more from this talented young actor. The tightly wound Cogsworth, played by Jamie Evans is done brilliantly and hilariously. Babette, the flirtatious feather duster, is captured perfectly by the lovely Cammie Hollinger as she flounces around stage.
Leslye Fries plays Madame De La Grande Bouche, the operatic wardrobe,impressively with her amazing vocal prowess. Kerrie Baker, as Mrs. Potts delivers an endearing performance and her rendition of the iconic “Beauty and the Beast”, is quite lovely. Newcomer Steven Sower, as Chip, was cast perfectly as the adorable young tea cup. His timing is impeccable and you would never know that this is his first time on stage! This is one talented group of characters!
Mike Gesler’s set design is always impressive, imaginative and visually pleasing accompanied by the lighting and stage effects of Jim Jenkins. The costume design by Kathy Jenkins, assisted by Jennifer Chambers and many others, is colorful, incredibly detailed and makes this lover of costumes jump for joy. The choreographer by Michelle DuBois is dazzling and delightful during the larger numbers like, “Gaston”, “Be Our Guest” and “Human Again”. The choreographed wolves, played by herself, Brighton Fries and Faith Woltanski, are also quite stunning during their scenes.
The cast is rounded out by Jim Renney, who convincingly plays Belle’s father Maurice and Charley Zeldenrust as the dastardly Monsieur D’Arque. The large and talented chorus full ofpeople from our wonderful community and surrounding areas is led by Vocal Director Bob Alonzo with Courtney King directing the orchestra. Behind the scenes is the more than capable crew led by Rachel Buzzita as Stage Manager and Ron Jenkins as Assistant Director.
This show is a must see and fun for the entire family. Those of us, like me, that grew up loving the animated film from 1991 will be filled with nostalgia and will be tempted to sing along to the familiar songs, while children that are just discovering this beautiful classic will fall in the love with Belle and the amazing cast of characters. This magical fairy tale is just what we all need right now, a story where kindness and love prevail.
Do not miss your chance to see this beautifully performed show and support local theater. Get your tickets now! The box office at the Grant Fine Arts Center is open from 3pm-6pm Monday through Friday, and 2 hours before each performance. Call 231-834-5630 to purchase tickets by debit or credit card, or visit in person to pay by cash or card, or visit tickets.grantps.net to purchase online. Tickets are $15 for Adults, $10 for Students and Seniors. Show dates are November 4-6 and 11-12.
Disney's Beauty and the Beast is presented through special arrangement with Music Theatre International (MTI). All authorized performance materials are also supplied by MTI.
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