The world’s most beloved “tale as old as time” gets a crowd-pleasing retelling at Fullerton’s Plummer Auditorium as 3-D theatricals gives Disney Beauty And The Beast the kind of topnotch big-stage production that has, for the past half-dozen years, become synonymous with 3-D.
It’s hard to believe that a quarter-century has passed since Disney’s take on the fairytale classic made movie history by becoming the first full-length animated feature to score a Best Picture Oscar nomination.
Those who haven’t yet experienced Disney Beauty And The Beast live onstage may wonder how its 1994 Broadway adaptation managed to recreate with living, breathing actors the animated film’s Lumiere, Cogsworth, and Mrs. Potts, servants transformed by an enchantress’s spell into items of furniture, especially in production numbers like “Be Our Guest.”
Suffice it to say that Disney Beauty And The Beast’s book writer Linda Woolverton and the show’s creators came up with ingenious solutions likely to surprise those who may have thought it couldn’t be done—and the 3-D Theatricals team add their own distinctive touches.
The 84-minute film’s original songs (music by Alan Menken and lyrics by the late Howard Ashman) have been supplemented by a number of additions (lyrics by Tim Rice), most notably Belle’s “Home,” Gaston’s “Me,” and Beast’s powerful Act One closer “If I Can’t Love Her,” which serve to flesh out and enrich Woolverton’s characters, and though the stage musical’s longer running time will test the attention span of children under five (i.e., leave those toddlers and preschoolers at home), this is perfect family entertainment for elementary school-aged and up, the kind that adults can enjoy every bit as much as the kiddies.
Under T.J. Dawson’s astute direction, a cast of musical theater vets and newcomers find their own original shadings in characters we’ve come to cherish.
Star-on-the-rise Alexander Mendoza returns to Southern California to bring a refreshingly youthful Beast to powerful life, his “If I Can’t Have Her” revealing stunning legit pipes to match the pop shadings of his Southland appearances in Next To Normal and Spring Awakening.
Afton Quast, most recently seen as the brasher half of Side Show’s Hilton Twins, gives Belle a combination of spunk and heart that makes her a fitting sparring partner (and love interest) for Mendoza’s Beast.
3-D discovery Cameron Bond tops every Gaston I’ve seen in his delectable comedic blend of muscular bravado (the guy can’t stop flexing those humungous biceps) and gorgeous vocals, and Robert Ramirez once again sets the bar high for anyone taking on the role of pratfall-prone Gaston-sidekick Lefou.
As the dotty Maurice, Norman Large proves himself as adept at comedy as he has in dramatic roles, while Dustin Ceithamer’s towering Monsieur D’Arque is as delightfully dastardly as a musical theater villain can get.
Meanwhile over in Beast’s castle, an equally stellar bunch bring Disney’s servants-turned-inanimate objects to enchanting life, beginning with Dennis Kyle’s scene-stealing Lumiere (who could give Maurice Chevalier a run for his money) and Joe D’Auria’s drolly fussy Cogsworth.
Southland treasure Tracy Lore is everything you want Mrs. Potts to be, warmly maternal and blessed with rich, resonant pipes. Melina Kalomas’s Babette is a saucy, sexy French bonbon, Bree Murphy makes for a divalicieuse Madame De La Grand Bouche, and Bradley Bundlie is a pintsized bundle of spunky charm as teacup Chip.
Broadway/First National Tour member Billy Sprague, Jr.’s from-the-ground-up choreography sets 3-D’s Disney Beauty And The Beast apart from previous regional stagings, especially in his fresh takes on the now iconic “Belle,” “Be Our Guest,” “Human Again,” and most especially the thrillingly rethought “stein-ography” of “Gaston.”
Bringing Sprague’s choreography to Broadway-caliber life is an all-around sensational ensemble. Matthew Ballestero, Ceithamer, Kenji Crockett, Cole Cuomo, Chelle Denton, Katie DeShan, Paul DiLoreto, Jake Dupree, Natalie Iscovich, Danielle Kohberger, April Lovejoy, Nick Morganella, Adrian Mustain, Dino Nicandros, Dylan Pass, Kelly Powers, Natalie Sachse, Jean Schroeder, Nick Waaland, and Grace Yoo all sing and dance quite splendidly as Townspeople and Enchanted Objects.
DiShan, Lovejoy, and Yoo deserve added snaps for their deliciously ditzy synchronized turns as Silly Girls, dance captain Dupree for his astoundingly acrobatic Carpet, and Waaland for his Young Prince cameo opposite Enchantress Mustain.
Musical director extraordinaire Julie Lamoureux conducts Disney Beauty And The Beast’s Broadway-ready 18-piece orchestra, musicians provided by Los Angeles Musicians Collective.
Gateway Production’s colorful scenic design, Andrew Nagy’s vivid projections, and Gretchen Morales and Melanie Cavaness’s fanciful properties capture the look of the original Disney film as do Mela Hoyt-Heydon’s stunning costumes and Peter Herman’s wigs. Jean-Yves Tessier has created yet another vivid lighting design and Julie Ferrin provides a mostly crystal-clear sound design (and some great Beast effects). Makeup designer Denice Paxton deserves snaps for Beast’s monstrous look and Jeffrey S. Marsh for his pyrotechnic design.
Ryan Ruge is assistant director. Donna R. Parsons is production stage manager and David Nestor Jordan is assistant stage manager. Jene Roach is technical director.
Family entertainment at its finest, 3-D Theatrical’s Disney Beauty And The Beast provides enchantment for children, romance for adults, and plenty of laughs for both. There’s nothing at all Beastly about this Beauty of a production.
Plummer Auditorium, 210 E. Chapman Ave., Fullerton.
February 7, 2016
Photos: Isaac James