Photo Credit: Cathy Cunningham Photography
Written by Daniella Litvak
Seeing a Lythogoe Family Panto (a fairy tale with told with musical numbers, lots of jokes and audience participation) at the Laguna Playhouse during the holiday season has become an Orange County tradition. Over the past few years, Lythoge Family Productions has staged Aladdin and His Winter Wish, A Snow White Christmas, and Sleeping Beauty and her Winter Knight. This year’s production is Beauty And The Beast: A Christmas Rose (hereinafter “Beauty”).
This telling of Beauty and the Beast is a combination of older and modern versions. Marcel (Andrew Barnicle) was a wealthy Parisian merchant until a storm destroyed his ships and forced him and his daughter, Belle (Ashley Argota) to live in reduced circumstances in a small village. One day Marcel gets word that one of his ships survived the storm, and on his way to reclaim it, he gets lost and has to take shelter in a mysterious castle. Unfortunately, he angers the lord of the castle — the Beast (Thomas Hobson). Just as Marcel is about to be imprisoned forever, Belle offers to take his place.
The description sounds grim, but this show is very merry. There’s tons of comedy. One of the best bits of the night was the mini sock puppet show the character Louis Vuitton (David Vuitton) performed. Even though children are the target audience, there are plenty of jokes for adults to laugh at, especially if you’re an Orange County native.
Beauty is also a musical. It takes the jukebox musical route and uses popular songs — classics like Edith Piaf’s “La Vie En Rose” and more modern hits like Maroon Five’s “Moves Like Jagger” — for its song and dance numbers. Beauty wisely chose a lot of high energy songs, which definitely added to the fun.
There are some dramatic sequences such as wolf pack attacks and a climatic final fight. Those are some of the show’s best moments, especially in regards to choreography. This along with the melodramatic musical accompaniment and loud sound effects can be overwhelming for very young audience members, but as stated above, the majority of the play is very lighthearted.
The sets have a very 80s cartoon look to them. Beauty also utilizes its effects to great effect: the digital backdrop for the prologue, the strobe light for the climax, and a snowy finale.
My showing started just after 4:00 p.m., and —even with an intermission — ended just before 6:00 p.m. There aren’t any unnecessary subplots or unbearably long tangents. Times when I was worried the show would lose all momentum actually passed pretty quickly and were surprisingly entertaining. Both acts flew by, and before I knew it, it was curtain call.
Hobson definitely made the Beast an imposing figure. His singing was the most powerful throughout the entire performance.
Pierre, Riley Costello is the scene-stealer. He’s funny, charismatic, and good at pumping up the audience. It’s largely thanks to him that the moments I feared would be time-sucks weren’t.
Beauty And The Beast: A Christmas Rose is surprisingly charming. If you can, share this theater going experience with a child.