Two musicals opened last weekend, and you can’t afford to miss either of them.
Since they each deserve a full review, we’ll begin with “Beauty and the Beast,” a Musical Theatre West production that runs through July 27. Next week we’ll cover “Fiddler on the Roof,” which is on stage at the Long Beach Playhouse with a longer run.
According to Paul Garman (MTW executive director and producer), “The company has been trying for years to get permission from Disney to produce one of its shows.”
Once they got it, MTW pulled out all the stops to make an eye-poppin’, spectacular showcase out of “Beauty and the Beast.”
What began years ago as a beloved animated children’s film became a hit Broadway musical in 1994. Live actors, singers and dancers play all the parts — even those of animals and household objects in the Beast’s haunted castle. Based on a book by Linda Woolverton (who went to Wilson High School); with music by Alan Menken (Academy Award-winning composer), and lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice; “Beauty and the Beast” has become a beloved musical theater classic.
Now that it’s finally playing in Long Beach, you must act quickly if you want to see it. Tickets are flying out so fast the entire run is almost sold out. At rock bottom it’s an instructive fairly tale, so this is the perfect vehicle for the entire family. Grab everyone from 8 to 80, then call the box office at 856-1999 or log on to www.musical.org.
“B. & B.” is a huge production — the largest we’ve ever seen on the Carpenter Center stage. It’s so large, in fact, we don’t know where to start. So we’ll begin at the top and work down — with the acknowledgement that everyone’s participation is flawless. Under the direction of David Vaughn (with musical direction by Michael Borth and outstanding choreography by Bill Burns), an enormous assortment of talent performs the magic of living theater right before your eyes.
The title roles are performed by Gwen Hollander and Garrett Marshall, both of whom are terrific and perfectly cast. They are supported by Gaston (Christian Marriner), the handsome, egotistical stud who’s determined to marry Belle; Lefou (Robert Ramirez), the fool who acts as Gaston’s servant; Maurice (Doug Carfrae), Belle’s eccentric father; Lumiere (Michael Paternostro), the charming, French chandelier; Mrs. Potts (Cathy Newman), the English tea pot; Cogsworth (Brandon Armstrong), the over-wound clock; Babette (Melinda Kalomas), the feather-headed dust mop; and Madame de la Grande Bouche (Emily King Brown), the singing wardrobe.
Add to that an ensemble of 17 talented performers, and we still haven’t given credit to everyone who knocks your eyes out. Creative people such as Tiia Torchia and Shawn Decou (their costumes are to die for); or Jon Infante, whose projections bring magic to the set; or Jean-Yves Tessier, whose lighting creates mysterious mood and mystery; and on it goes. In short, the production values in the staging of “Beauty and the Beast” will take your breath away. (For example: the sight of every utensil in the kitchen doing the can-can; or a pack of vicious wolves (male dancers) attacking Belle’s father; or Belle reacting to the Beast’s newfound kindness and dancing close to him after a formal dinner; or Gaston and the Beast in an all-out, midnight fight during a torrential rain storm.)
Of course, the spell that the old witch cast on the beast is broken, and he’s returned to being a handsome prince who has learned an important lesson. As stated before, “B & B” plays at the Carpenter Center through July 27. Call for tickets now at 856-1999 or drive directly to the box office at Seventh Street and Ximeno Avenue.