Orange County Theatre Reviews

Written by Alina Mae Wilson 

In a departure from what has traditionally been for many years a space to revisit older classics less known by the youth, Peppertree Park is now hosting Disney’s popular musical Beauty and the Beast.   Presented by the Tustin Area Council for the Fine Arts and the Chance Theater, this production is engaging and extremely well-performed but also more exhausting than one might expect.

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Sharyn Sakimoto

Here’s a quick review, a voracious reader named Belle lives in a small, French village.  Since a woman reading is considered odd, people talk vindictively behind her back about her and her inventor father.  But since she is also beautiful, she has to stave off the advances of the handsome and chronically egotistical Gaston.  Meanwhile what appears to be a vicious beast resides in a castle with enchanted servants attending him.  When circumstances force Belle into his clutches, we wait to see whether she is able to break the spell that plagues him and his magical surroundings once and for all.

This show is playing outside in a park.  Unless you rented a table or brought a chair to set up in the back, you need to be early enough to grab the ground location of your choice.  You also need to have the foresight to bring a blanket thick enough for your needs given that you will be seated on the floor. All around the park there are stands selling various treats. This picnic-esque environment can be sociable and fun, but you have to get a good location and bring the right equipment for the night.  I have a history with Broadway in the Park, and I know that sitting on the ground in the back is a less than ideal viewing experience.

All of the beautiful  and catchy songs from the animated film are here, as well as some new ones from the original composer Alan Menken.  The score is top quality, and the cast performs it well, but sitting outside with children (if you bring any) might take its toll on you.  There is no denying some songs are more fun to listen to/ watch than others, especially when certain numbers aren’t as lavish in appearance.   The whole two and a half hour affair starts to feel very long.  No matter, the numbers that are fun are presented with a decadence and a buoyancy that makes you either want to get up and dance (“Gaston”) or sway with passion (“”If I Can’t Love Her”).  Amy Glinskas’ performance of the title song as Mrs. Potts has a sweetness that is comforting in all the right ways. This can work as an outing. Just make sure you and your family are well rested beforehand.

The costumes are colorful and attractive to the eye.  Sometimes the set is a little too plain (mostly in the village), but in these instances the townspeople mill about as stand-ins for scenery.  It’s fine, and the elaborate castle sequences make up for what the village lacks.  With the exception of the director’s mistaken belief that having a random child with a book making random sojourns on the stage somehow adds to the depth of the story instead of being a distraction, the use of the ensemble is quite entertaining.  But the book boy’s appearances are infrequent enough that it doesn’t bother too much, and it is admittedly nice to see people attempting new things even if certain attempts fall a bit flat.

Beauty and the Beast is so well acted here.  Every single pairing is perfect.  The chemistry among all the pairs of performers is something I haven’t seen in a while.  Whether it’s Belle (played by Laura Hathaway) with Gaston (Jordan Goodsell), Belle with the Beast (Winston Peacock), Gaston and Lefou (Daniel Reyes), or Lumiere (Tucker Boyes) with Cogsworth (Ryan J.Lloyd), the interaction between them all is just delightful to watch.

Go see Beauty and the Beast at Peppertree Park.  Please hurry because the show only runs until August 20th.  The dancing is lively.  The story is riveting.  The music is superb, and it’s not often when you can see such a quality performance for only $20.00 a piece (children under the age of four are free).  

August 16th -20th 2016

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