Young Actor’s Theatre’s ‘Beauty and the Beast’

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Some theater companies put more thought into how they choreograph curtain call than the rest of the production. Such was not the case with the Spring Valley based Young Actors’ Theatre’s production of “Beauty and the Beast,” running through July 16, at the Joan B. Kroc Theatre in San Diego.

Some theater companies put more thought into how they choreograph curtain call than the rest of the production. Such was not the case with the Spring Valley based Young Actors’ Theatre’s production of “Beauty and the Beast,” running through July 16, at the Joan B. Kroc Theatre in San Diego.

With a larger venue, Director Jean Isaac and co-director and choreographer Perry Lee thought out all the steps and costumes that brought the stage to life. And with the larger venue, the set easily transformed from village to castle without a hitch.

With a large cast and big production, dance steps included chorus lines, a wobbly and comical inanimate candlestick named Lumiere, a torch and pitchfork laden mob, and more little moves, dancing forks, and 360’s that added to the whole kaleidoscope of images one could ever want in a musical. In short it’s a large cast for a great production and props go to all for such an incredible theater experience.

The musical begins not with a beauty and a beast but a beautiful man and an enchantress. But the beautiful man is an arrogant, shallow prince who rejects the woman because of her looks. The enchantress changes into a beautiful dancer that entices his eyes but it is too late. To punish him for his shallowness she changes him into an ugly beast who retreats into his castle that has also been put under her spell. Castle help morphs into half-human and inanimate objects bringing magical characters within the confines of a candlestick, clock, forks, teapot, and a fabulous display of much more. Costumes were creatively pulled together to create the magical atmosphere of the castle, adding the enchanting elements into a tale of bewitching romance.

In order for the beast’s spell to be broken he must show enough love, and she to love him in return, to free everyone from their lives as living pieces of a castle perforated with magic. The costumes, by Star Laddon and Heather Brooks, sparked laughs of their own in their whimsy and also reflected the beast’s forlorn status.

Enter villager Belle, beautifully played and sung by Isabelle Lenhoff, who is the village beauty enough so to catch the eye of overly egotistical, body pumped Gaston hilariously acted by Johnathon Michael. Gaston wants to marry Belle. Belle rejects him.  In the meantime Belle’s inventor father gets lost in the woods and captured and dungeon detained in the Beast’s enchanted castle. Belle goes in search of her father and swaps out his captivity for her captivity.

Lenhoff’s voice soared through the theater with ease, grace and power. She understood the dynamics of each song, with “A Change in Me” being an extraordinary moment that brought together the subtleness of her character and the refinement of her voice. The entire troupe did not disappoint with “Be Our Guest,” a fan favorite with Lumiere (the candlestick) giving an outstanding performance both visually, in speech, song and comedic timing.

Lenhoff pulled off the beautiful but odd, bookworm Belle and used her singing voice commandingly so. Michel absolutely nailed the pompous Gaston using every touch of arrogance and pomp mainly using his physical presence as the town’s man most wanted by all the women in town, with the exception of Belle. Josh Powers (Beast) stood out, not only due to his role and his ability to play prince and beast in tandem, but his high baritone voice lent well to the ears, especially with “If I Can’t Love Her.”

In its entirety, “Beauty and the Beast” is a show well worth seeing, and Y.A.T., once again, proves that it strives for nothing short of perfection from the youngest to the oldest cast member.

Technical cast such as music director Jim Tompkins-MacLaine, assistant music director Allison Leete, stage manager Joe Dionisio, and assistant stage manager Jason Tarlov plus set designer Mark Holter, light/sound man John Demaree, production chair Jamie Coleman, and the Beauty and the Beast Orchestra comprised of violins cellos, bass, flute/piccolo, oboe/English horn, piano player and more, all helped to make the Y.A.T family of talented members into a very enjoyable family reunion that includes new and old family members if you will. All involved provide a sound and visual feast.

Little girls showed brand allegiance wearing yellow Belle ballroom dresses, stuffed Belle toys, and former Halloween Belle costumes to the show. Y.A.T. is hosting a Belle princess party on July 16 for both princes and princesses prior to the matinee showing for $10, which includes a backstage tour and up and close personal meetings with the cast.

Young Actors’ Theatre offers affordable prices to this child and adult charming and enchanted production.  Call 619/670-1627 or visit www.yatsandiego.org for more information.

11 COMMENTS

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