Creative Cauldron doesn’t shy away from the big and bold, and producing the Broadway version of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast embodies that to the hilt. Amidst its small modest space, the Disney masterpiece that launched a thousand ships becomes an intimate, authentic telling. It’s splendid.
Surely, we all know the story: long, long ago in France a spoiled, vain young prince turned away an old beggar women, who turns out to be an enchantress. She curses the boy, who turns into the Beast (Wyn Delano), and all the castle’s inhabitants, who slowly turn from human to inanimate object. There is the lusty Lumiere, a candlestick (Joshua Simon); the stodgy Cogsworth, a clock (Mikey Bevarelli); the sensible Mrs. Potts, a tea kettle (Jennifer Pagnard) and her son Chip, a cup (Gabriela Simmons-Robles); the coquettish Babette, a feather duster (Candice Shedd-Thompson), and the indomitable Madame De La Grande Bouche, a wardrobe (Karen Kelleher).
Disney’s Beauty and the Beast from Creative Cauldron closes June 23, 2019. Details and tickets
Some years later, through the dark woods in a nearby village lives a bookish, but beautiful, girl named Belle (Eleanor Todd), who dreams of adventure, her father Maurice (Will Stevenson), who dreams up inventions, and Gaston (Ryan Manning), who dreams of Belle, scheming to marry her with help from his sidekick LeFou (Chris Rudy). Naturally, Belle ends up in the Beast’s castle through a series of unfortunate events. After some hard work, a lot of patience, a couple terrifying attacks, and a smidge of gentle nudging from Lumiere and crew, they fall in love, lifting the curse.
The voices Creative Cauldron has gathered here are astounding—all smooth as silk with robust, rounded tones that immerse you in the cozy space. Delano’s baritone is wonderful and warm, and Manning will have you at hello, or rather during “Belle,” the opening song. Todd, Pagnard, and Kelleher are lovely as well. Pagnard has a tiny waver in her voice reminiscent of the great Angela Lansbury, and Kelleher’s operatic warbles are equally beautiful and comical—perfect for the melodramatic wardrobe who continually reminds us all that she once sang for a king.
Wyn Delano contorts his face in sorrowful, agonizing ways, which works in his favor since his Beast is less costumed than you might have imagined, save for some furred hands and smatter of face paint. In essence, Delano must be both hideous and dashing in his own flesh. And he pulls it off. His dynamic with Todd’s Belle feels right, as they spar early on and finally find love. Belle is always meant to be spunky, one who bucks tradition, but she also often has that touch of naiveté, that wistful girlishness, common to Disney Princesses. But Todd infuses snark that makes her more remarkable, more relatable, more exciting to watch, especially with Delano’s Beast, whose torment is clear and raw and real, not hidden behind a mask.
And, of course Gaston and LeFou, Lumiere, and Cogsworth bring the funny, as they should. The oafish Gaston, who is played by Ryan Manning—a perfectly handsome man – lacks the brawny stature and physique often given to the villain. It feels wonderfully subversive in a way, and Manning has a “wink, wink” about him. Simon’s Lumiere’s quippiness is on point, especially with Bevarelli’s Cogsworth.
Director Matt Conner creatively uses children—it’s not just Chip, always a given. They hobnob as villagers and enliven objects, such as Maurice’s crazy, broken contraption in the opening scenes. The kids, lumbering as a unit, but each as a distinct part with a unique movement, enter wearing all black and top hats made into gears. And then there is Enola Danewitz who plays the Enchanted Rose. Her facial expressions mirror the sadness as it wilts and interacts with the Beast, who treats the flower as his closest confidant.
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Conner turns the small space to his advantage. During the boisterous, Tavern extravaganza “Gaston,” which often features a big ole’ dance, he doubles down on the synchronized clinking of metal beer steins and treats the scene more like a frat house party, with drunk people falling over, each sloshed as if they’ve just competed in beer pong in your living room. Come on—we all know that’s as entertaining as a chorus line on a table, otherwise films like The Hangover wouldn’t have been hits. Conner knows this. And, he does something similar on “Be Our Guest,” ending it with a black light and white gloves. The effect is that it truly feels like a larger-than-life feast with a million objects dancing Belle right up to the ceiling.
I’m not as keen on the songs added for the Broadway production, but “Human Again” and “Maison Des Lune,” the latter which features Sylvern Groomes Jr. as the wicked Monsieur D’Arque and more top hats, are standouts. While initially I wished for a tad more color (literally) in the production (a personal preference), upon more thought I like the darker take on things. Other than that, and a few awkward transitional moments, I have no complaints.
Creative Cauldron has pushed against expectations for a large, expansive production to create an innovative, interesting, and intimate Beauty and the Beast. And, not to worry—it retains all the flair and fun that endeared it to out hearts years ago.
Disney’s Beauty and the Beast . Music by Alan Menken. Lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice. Book by Linda Woolverton. Directed and choreographed by Matt Conner. Featuring Wyn Delano, Eleanor Todd, Will Stevenson, Ryan Manning, Chris Rudy, Sylvern Groomes Jr., Mikey Bevarelli, Joshua Simon, Jennifer Pagnard, Candice Shedd-Thompson, Gabriela Simmons-Robles, Karen Kelleher, Allison Bradbury, Noah Beye, Gabriel Ashton Brown, Katie Culligan, Garrett Matthews, Jessi Shull, Carl L. Williams, and the Musical Theatre Training Ensemble: Madeline Aldana, Morgan Beltson, Talia Cutler, Enola Danewitz, Mai Gabra, Constance Meade, Owen Thiebert, and Jonah Uffleman. Musicians: Leigh Delano (Keyboard), Dana Gardner (Reeds), Ryan Scott (Horn), Paul Weiss (Trumpet), Jeff Thurston (Violin), and Emillie Mitchell (Percussion). Production: Leigh Delano, Music Director; Margie Jervis, Scenic and Costume Designer; Lynn Joslyn; Grace Foor and Amelia Handly, Wardrobe Assistants; Annie Stamp, Assistant Director and Choreographer; Jessie Shull, Dance Captain; Josh Simon, Fight Captain; Matt Conner, Wynn Delano, and Josh Simon, Fight Choreographers; George Ligon, Sound Effects, Sarah Gomper, Scenic Assistant; Ian Jacknow, Scenic Carpentry; Noah Taylor and Wynn Allen, Scenic Painting; Wynn Allen, Assistant Prop Work; Grace Foor, Costume Intern; and Nicholas J. Goodman, Assistant Stage Manager. Stage Managed by Bryan Boyd. Produced by Creative Cauldron. Reviewed by Kelly McCorkendale.
Loved everything about this production?? I must see it again…??????????