by Beki Pineda

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST – Music by Alan Menken; Lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice; Book by Linda Woolverton: Directed by Kenny Moten. Produced by the Arvada Center (6901 Wadsworth Boulevard, Arvada) through December 31.  Tickets available at 720-898-7200 or arvadacenter.org.

Going to the theatre on an ordinary night – not opening or closing – is a special experience. These audience members are not people who came because they have a friend on stage. They applaud because they are thrilled by what they see happening on stage, by the excitement generated by an energetic dance number, by a well sung song, by a story well told. Their enthusiasm is genuine and authentic.  They may not know any of those people on stage but they admire and enjoy what the players can do. Such was the audience on a recent Saturday night at the Arvada Center.

First off, the costumes, designed by Sarah M. Stark in her first outing at the Arvada Center, were – as they should be – amusing and functional.  hese are not the kind of costumes you can just pull together or even rent. I would venture an educated guess that these were built by the incredible crew of 14 drapers and stitchers in the Arvada Costume Shop. What a job they have done – creating arms that light up for Lumiere, a chest of drawers out of Megan Van De Hay, forks and plate costumes for the ensemble dancers in “Be Our Guest,” the Beast’s head and horns; Gaston’s muscles, and the wolves in the forest. They even provided the classic yellow ballgown for Belle in the ballroom scene. A daunting task well accomplished.

The set that glides between the town square and the Beast’s castle was designed by resident designer Brian Mallgrave. The lighting by Jon Dunkle adds to the sinister quality of the forest and the Beast’s den as well as reflecting the bright sunshine of the outdoor scenes. The combination of Kenny Moten as Director, Jordan Ortman as Music Director and Jessica Hindsley as Choreographer brought the music and story to life in a most delightful way.

Michael Carrasaco and Zina Ellis who both came to town for these parts are artists who travel all over the country to perform for different audiences. They bring their experience, their training and their natural talent with them. Michael as the Beast proved formidable and ferocious at his first appearances. This makes his softening into Less Than a Beast even more enjoyable and poignant. His exuberant joy at having Belle read a book to him was child-like and fun. Zina as Belle was well chosen for her lovely voice was as clear as a bell.  Her disdain of Gaston, her defiance of the Beast, her love for her father and her softening to the Beast as well gave us a strong woman character and propelled the story to a satisfying conclusion.

Dancing in those awkward but necessary costumes had to be difficult for the actors. But they were each and every one up to the task. Barrett Harper has been a favorite guy to watch ever since I saw him become Patsy in SPAMALOT in a summer many years back. It’s great to see him get a role worthy of his talent as he plays Lumiere, the singing, dancing, flirting, funny candelabra.  His light-footed character provides comic relief at each turn. He shares many moments with Babette, the feather duster who gets fluffier with each scene. Christine Oberndorf has grown up in front of Denver audiences to become a talented young lady. Her French speaking flirtatious feather duster is a suitable foil for Lumiere and keeps him guessing. Colin Alexander returns as the Butler turned Clock Cogswell and brings a suitable dignity and anxiety to his unfortunate circumstances. Kevin Hack has travelled the world performing and comes to the Colorado stage to show us his Gaston – a boasting, narcissistic bully who can’t understand why Belle doesn’t fall at his feet in admiration. He’s so over-the-top, it’s ridiculous at first but takes a villainous turn as the story progresses. Marlene Montes is a delightful Mrs. Potts who wins the title song and has a sweet relationship with her son, Chip, the teacup, who was played by Emma McCurdy this performance. Our own Megan Van De Hey became Madam de la Grand Bouche, a frustrated opera singer turned chest of drawers.

This show has been delighting audiences for 28 years, longer than some of the cast members have been alive. But I’ll bet if you told some of the mature members of this cast that in 28 years, they would be playing furniture, they would have thought you were nuts. But you won’t be nuts to get tickets for this not-quite-Christmas show but so much fun, who cares!! A great one to bring the kids to; they will love it.

A WOW factor of 9!!

 

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