Beauty and the Beast

A Big Show Presented Small

By: - Aug 26, 2023

Beauty and the Beast is a big show. The Disney musical needs special effects, lots of costumes, and a large cast. It can be a challenge for any theater with limited stage and backstage area, and a limited budget to do it effectively.   Perhaps the only way a small theater can do it is to totally reimagine the show.

Fight scenes, transformations, castle turrets, servants turned into inanimate objects and more. The Legacy Theatre in Stony Creek, Branford, has managed some of these effectively. I’ll admit I was apprehensive before seeing this production. But I discovered there were some good moments in this production which runs through Sunday, Aug. 27.

Let’s start with the cast. Wisely, director Kelly Basiden Knudsen cast many students majoring in musical theater at various colleges in roles. While they may not be Actor’s Equity performers, they’ve had extensive training in acting, dance and singing.  They switch easily among multiple roles.  In one scene, they are villagers and in another, they are part of the household staff in the castle. Both Nia Alsop and Bella Pacheco Rarick are two who carry it off with aplomb.

As Belle, Melanie Martyn has a lovely soprano voice and creates a young girl at odds with her community. David Bell shines as her father and at the beginning as the narrator who sets the scene. He makes Maurice otherworldly but also kind and caring. Dan Frye as the prince was good, but his voice needed more authority. 

In the castle scenes, Susan Kulp was fine as Mrs. Potts the housekeeper who becomes a teapot, as were Niko Charney as Lumiere, who becomes a chandelier, and Josiah Rowe as Cogsworth, who becomes a clock.

The main disappointment was Scott A. Towers as Gaston, who seemed to be in a show set in contemporary times rather than 18th-century France.  It wasn’t clear why all the young women of the village were pining over him. Robert Peterpaul as his servant LeFou was over-the-top and shrill.

An eight-piece orchestra provides the music under the direction of Cathyann Roding. The minimal dancing was choreographed by Paola Pacheco Rarick. 

It is the spectacle aspects of the show that are the most problematic. Some of the major plot points, including the death of the beast and the coming-to-life of the Prince, were not given the emphasis they deserved. If you didn’t recall the story, you may have missed what was actually happening. The same was true of several other moments where it seemed as though the plot was condensed.

The small cast and small stage also affected the big “Be Our Guest” number, where all the servants are shown as transformed into eating utensils, plates, and more. In this scene, cast members held plates or forks rather than being in costumes that reflected their transformation.

One scene that worked very well was the prince’s transformation into the beast. It was staged so that it wasn’t obvious what was happening and lent an air of magic.

Most of the costumes by designer Jimmy Johansmeyer were good, with the exception of Belle’s ball gown.

Knudsen made extensive use of projections to help establish the many locations in the show. Overall, they worked well.

The show was over-amplified. At times, the volume hurt my ears and when you add in LeFou’s shrillness, it was even more so.

The desire to produce shows that are well-known is understandable, but it is also important for theaters to focus on what they do best.

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This content is courtesy of Shore Publications and