REVIEW: "Beauty and the Beast" — Cal State Fullerton Performing Arts

Updated: Jun 20, 2020

“A Sightseer's Delight and a Theatergoer's Dream…”

Now through October 27th, California State University Fullerton’s Little Theatre is serving up a charming and delightful family treat with Disney’s timeless 1994 modern classic musical, “Beauty and the Beast,” adapted for the stage from the Academy Award-winning film of the same name and featuring new music by Alan Menken, lyrics by the late Howard Ashman and Tim Rice, and book by Linda Woolverton. This “tale as old as time,” which garnered nine Tony nominations, was a massive commercial success, and ran on Broadway for 13 years with 5,461 performances, becoming Broadway's tenth longest-running production in history.

The tale of Beauty and the Beast is an old one, dating back centuries prior to the version penned by 18th century Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont, upon which author Woolverton based her book. Understandably, the people at Disney took their inspiration from Jean Cocteau's 1946 classic and have added their own spin to the plot details, modernizing Belle's character (she's a feminist), and adding a gallery of talking objects. In the Beast's ensorcelled castle, everything has a voice: candlesticks, clocks, pots, teacups, wardrobes, and feather dusters.

Side Note: If you are one of the six people in America who don't know the plot, a wicked witch long ago has transformed the handsome prince into a cross between Quasimodo and a buffalo, and the staff of the castle is slowly turning into anthropomorphic household objects. The only way for the Beast (played by Jack O’Leary) to become human again is with the condition that he learns to love and be loved in return.

Belle (Laurel Bollard) is the most beautiful girl, but feels out of place in her quaint provincial village in France. She's also one of the village's oddest denizens. She keeps to herself, helping her eccentric inventor father, Maurice (Kaden Narey), with his contraptions, and, in her spare time, devouring books. She has read just about everything available in the town, and eagerly awaits the arrival of anything new. Every time she ventures outdoors, she draws stares and snickers, but, despite her strangeness, Gaston is determined to marry her.

Then, one fateful day, her father disappears in the forest. Belle goes searching for him and stumbles upon a dark and scary castle. Venturing inside, she discovers a gallery of magical creatures - regular household objects that speak and move. There's Lumiere (James Meske), a candlestick with impeccable manners and a voice that recalls Maurice Chevalier; Cogsworth (Gabriel Manly), a clock with a high impression of himself and his role in the castle; Mrs. Potts (Jessica Pierini), a grandmotherly tea pot; and many others.

Then there's the Beast, the terrifying creature who rules over this domain and holds Maurice captive. Once a handsome prince, he has been cursed to remain a beast until he finds someone who truly loves him in spite of his appearance. Now, he is filled with equal parts hope and dread at Belle's arrival — hope that she might be "the one" to break the spell, and dread that she might be repulsed by his ugliness. Nevertheless, he agrees to release her father if she accedes to being his permanent guest. She makes the bargain, Maurice is set free, and she is trapped by the grisly and fearsome monster. Yet, there’s something sweet, and almost kind…