Mariyah Martin & Josh Berry in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. Image courtesy Youth Repertory Theatre Troupe of Louisville.
Disney’s Beauty and the Beast
Music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Howard Ashman & Tim Rice
Book by Linda Woolverton
Directed by Erica Denise
Review by Keith Waits
Entire contents copyright © 2017 by Keith Waits. All rights reserved.
It is a tale told so often in recent memory that it has become ingrained in our consciousness. The prince who lives under an enchantment as a hideous and frightening beast, and the beautiful young commoner who comes to love him. We knew it even before Walt Disney made it into one of the classic animated musicals that marked their resurgence in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s as a pop culture powerhouse. Now that version is THE version, even as it has been remade as a live action film fantasy to once again fill the Disney coffers.
There is a terrific score written for the movie by Alan Menken and the late Howard Ashman, with some additional songs for the stage version by Menken and Tim Rice (Jesus Christ Superstar, Evita), and the strength of Youth Repertory Theatre Troupe of Louisville remains the voices, so that makes Beauty and the Beast a fair choice in material. It is also arguably the most complex show they have attempted, and so it challenges the company more.
The leads sing well, with Mariyah Martin a tall and regal Belle, and Devin Holley a Prince with gravitas. Josh Berry is an appropriately animalistic Beast, but Holley sings for the character. Martin’s height is comically offset by Chase Dean’s modest stature, cast against type as Gaston, a character written as an arrogant brute. The contrast is played for comic effect; standing on a platform to face off with Belle, and flexing his padded muscles, Dean’s understated charm in the role is winning, and is the boldest departure from convention in Erika Denise’s staging.
Shylin Jordan was also a stand out as Lumiere, the candelabra, managing a fair and consistent French accent, and Jurni Woodson found her way through Mrs. Potts, burdened with having to push the cart that allows Zariah Buckner to play her son, Chip, she emerges with an impressive rendering of “Beauty and the Beast” that brought the house down.
Whatever the limitations of her production, Ms. Denise paces the show well enough and delivers the high points that we have come to expect in “Be Our Guest”, and “Gaston”; big production numbers in which she pulls out all the stops, filling the stage with bodies and a full chorus of voices.
The sound system was bedeviled by glitches, and suffered, at least from a front row seat, from an unfortunate echo that detracted from the good singing. Eva McGhee was a very funny LeFou but her microphone didn’t seem to function at all during the first act.
The costumes by LaShonda Hood and Ms. Bledsaw were a fair mimic of Disney, with some clever construction in the enchanted characters such as Mrs. Potts (teapot), Cogsworth (a clock), and, of course, Lumiere (candelabra). They were so delightful that when we see the characters in their human form (if this constitutes a spoiler for anyone, you have lived a sheltered life) we cannot help but be a tad disappointed when they revert to their ordinary human forms.
A youth orchestra under the direction of Troy Bell played the score effectively, with particularly subtle touches from the piano and strings.
Youth Repertory Theatre Troupe of Louisville is a company that clearly puts in the work, and their final impact is a mix of talent and charm that seems to always carry the day.
Disney’s Beauty and the Beast
July 28 @ 11:00am
July 29, 30, Aug. 4 & 5 @ 7:00pm
Youth Repertory Theatre Troupe of Louisville
Louisville Central Community Center
1300 West Muhammad Ali Blvd.
Louisville, Kentucky 40203
Keith Waits is a native of Louisville who works at Louisville Visual Art during the days, including being the host of PUBLIC on WXOX-FM 97.1/ ARTxFM.com, but spends most of his evenings indulging his taste for theatre, music and visual arts. His work has appeared in Pure Uncut Candy, TheatreLouisville, and Louisville Mojo. He is now Managing Editor for Arts-Louisville.com.