Regional Reviews: Connecticut and the Berkshires
Beauty and the Beast
Also see Fred's recent review of Faith Healer
To re-create the sumptuousness of the Broadway production, this production employs excellent use of curtains and gorgeous projections to make the things look especially grand. At the very center of the show is Melanie Martyn, the ideal Belle; she is lovely throughout. This Beauty and the Beast should most certainly thrill children, but everyone is likely to be touched by the heartwarming story and characters.
Once the show begins, it transports the audience to the world of France in the Eighteenth century. The songs sound great as sung by this company, and the fabulous orchestra is led by expert conductor Cathyann Roding. Director Keely Basiden Knudsen keeps the pace of the show moving extremely well, even if there are some slow spots in the first act. By the second half, everything works like a charm.
Melanie Martyn lends a beautiful voice to Belle and is extremely sympathetic. With such numbers as the opening, "Belle," and the song "Home," Martyn brings a radiance to the part; she is perhaps best of all in the second act solo "A Change in Me." Matching her is Dan Frye as the Beast. His rendition of the first act finale, "If I Can't Love Her," is a stunner and very emotional. Frye manages to fully embody the monstrous role, while revealing the Beast's heart underneath his frightening exterior.
The supporting company is fantastic as well, with Susan Kulp, as Mrs. Potts, singing the title song exquisitely. David Bell is quite good as Belle's father, and Scott A. Towers makes for a hammy and very funny Gaston, bringing plenty of brio and brash humor to the part. Robert Peterpaul is a lot of fun as LeFou and, as Mrs. Potts' son Chip, Patrick Clifford is just adorable. Playing other members of the castle, Nia Alsop, Niko Charney, Bella Pacheco Rarick, and Josiah Rowe make for a fanciful ensemble and they are especially strong in the number, "Human Again."
One unfortunate caveat of the small size of the stage is that a big number like "Be Our Guest" can't really go over as well as it usually does, but the rest of the production is aces. The scenic design by Jamie Burnett is quite attractive and Jimmy Johansmeyer pulls out all the stops with the fabulous costumes, especially Belle's ballgown, which nearly stops the show. Burnett is also the skillful lighting designer and works magic with the projections provided by Matt Kizer Design LLC and Adam Jackson. They make this Beauty and the Beast look as enchanting as possible. Choreographer Paola Pacheco Rarick provides some refreshing dance steps, adding sparkle to the production.
Beauty and the Beast is perhaps most successful at making sure that the story underneath all the stylish design elements works, and that is what transforms this production into such a joy. It is highly recommended that you bring tissues with you when seeing this heart-tugging production, especially for the conclusion. This relatively new theatre company definitely makes the show worth a visit.
Beauty and the Beast runs through August 27, 2023, at Legacy Theatre, 128 Thimble Islands Road, Branford CT. For tickets and information, please call 203-315-1901 or visit www.legacytheatrect.org.