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REVIEW: DISNEY’S BEAUTY AND THE BEAST—Rose Center Theater

Updated: Jul 2

Visually Stunning, Beautifully Crafted and Wonderfully Romantic!


Now through July 14th, Rose Center Theater in Westminster 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 Howard Ashman and Tim Rice, and book by Linda Woolverton.


This crowd-pleasing “tale as old as time,” directed and musically directed by Tim Nelson, offers a buoyant score, terrific dances by folkloric villagers, extravagant gowns, lovable characters and mammoth quantities of eye candy. That includes wonders like a stage full of twirling silverware, a cart-wheeling rug and a voluminous wardrobe chest that performs opera. In short, “Beauty and the Beast” does exactly what it sets out to do: entertain, charm, and restore one's belief in fairy-tale happy endings.


Chris Caputo in Disney's Beauty and the Beast, Now Playing at Rose Center Theater

In the well-known story, with origins as a French fairy tale, a handsome prince is placed under a spell by an enchantress for failing to extend kindness and hospitality to her. He is doomed to live life as a horrid beast (Chris Caputo, whose sensitive soul-searching eyes serve him well amid all his prosthetic, faux-fur trappings) while the staff of his castle is slowly turning into anthropomorphic household objects. He can only be released from the spell if he learns to love and is loved in return.


A bookish French village maiden enters the Beast's domain and becomes his prisoner. In Disney's version, she’s not only beautiful, but virtuous, strong-willed and brave. Her name is Belle (Olivia Aniceto) and she trades places with her absent-minded father, Maurice (Vincent Aniceto) who got lost in the woods and was captured by the grisly and fearsome monster for trespassing on his grounds. At first, Belle despises her captor. Yet, there’s something sweet, and almost kind…


Kristin Caputo, Donovan Monroe and Vincent Aniceto in Disney's Beauty and the Beast, Now Playing at Rose Center Theater

The narrative is propelled not only by the sound moral that "beauty is only skin deep" but also from the independent fiber of the Beauty herself, with her wanton wanderlust and an innate love of books, and from one who doesn’t pine away for a Prince Charming to lift her to her dreams. Unfortunately for those aspiring to win Belle’s hand, including Gaston (Matthew Ollson), the brutishly handsome town lothario, that’s not good news.


Matthew Ollson, Mark Wickham and Garrett Brown in Disney's Beauty and the Beast, Now Playing at Rose Center Theater

I should say here that all of the performances are equally winning, but a clear standout in this production is the preening comic villain Gaston with communicable relish. Lips smirking, muscles bulging, eyebrows with a life of their own—he’s easily the musical’s most animated feature as the swaggering town bully, wince-inducing blowhard and local heartthrob. Mr. Ollson’s Gaston operates on high energy bringing both strong voice and broad comical flair to the part.


Chris Caputo and Olivia Aniceto in Disney's Beauty and the Beast, Now Playing at Rose Center Theater

As the town Adonis, Gaston gives the impression that he is inflated with helium and destined for a place of honor in the next Christmas Day Parade. He has piano keys for teeth, his eyes sparkle like flames and he postures and poses like Arnold. Whenever he socks his dopey sidekick, Lefou (Garrett Brown, who seems to have rubber bands for bones), you recoil and automatically want to call for paramedics as he goes bouncing and sprawling halfway across the stage in slapstick fashion. Disclaimer: Mr. Brown’s pratfalls, physical shtick and comedic timing is masterful and professional and should not be tried at home.


The musical's strength, at least from Broadway's perspective, is the Oscar-winning score by Menken and his partner, Ashman, who died before work actually began on the stage version. Such songs as "Belle," "Be Our Guest" and "Gaston" are happy reminiscents of lyricists like Lerner and Loewe in a comparative “My Fair Lady” or “Camelot.” In order to bring out the sensitive side of the Beast and underscore Belle’s fortitude, Menken and Rice added seven palatable new numbers. All are by that team except the seventh, “Human Again,” which is a Menken and Ashman song, and not surprisingly, one of the best additions to the musical. The song is an upbeat waltz, with lyrics sung by the enchanted house servants, wishing they could all be human again.


Matthew Ollson (Ctr), Garrett Brown (R) and Company in Disney's Beauty and the Beast, Now Playing at Rose Center Theater

Putting aside the fact that Belle here in the musical is a bit more of a handful than she appeared in the movie, all this moody business for the Beast pretty well “defangs” him for a while (“Beauty and the Sensitive Guy?”). But when it looks as if pensive, town beauty Belle might break the curse by falling in love with the Beast, the housewares get pretty excited, thinking they may actually be turned back into their former selves. Before long, the spatula is cavorting with the forks, the rug is doing cartwheels and the dinner plates are spinning like arrogant showgirls, all in an extravagant production number entitled, "Be Our Guest," the first-act show-stopper. With lavishness close to delirium and giddiness beyond camp, this one musical number elevates "Beauty and the Beast" to a realm of hallucinogenic jubilation and par excellence like no other musical before.


Laura Pasarow Bangasser, Trevin Stephenson, Cliff Senior, Donovan Monroe, Kristin Caputo and Bernadette Colette Peters in Disney's Beauty and the Beast, Now Playing at Rose Center Theater

The technical stage work is clever and striking, jam-packed with effects which intermingle seamlessly. Through the background magic of crisp, clear, colorful digital projections created by Technical Director Chris Caputo, Busby Berkeley-styled choreography by Jennifer Simpson-Matthews and Diane Makas, colorfully animated costumes from Carole Zelinger, and perfectly frocked wigs by Cliff Senior, Rose Center Theater has recreated this grand, noble story right down to the ravenous wolves, the dancing spoons and forks and the enchanted rose that sheds its petals as true love's hope runs low.


As I mentioned before, all of the acting is consummate, thanks much to the mentorship of Director Tim Nelson. And much of the musical's charm stems from the transforming of characters and the way objects are made to look and behave like people. Linda Woolverton’s book spends considerable time developing the persona and mystique of the Beast, making him a fuller character than he was in the movie. The change is summed up in Rice’s wonderfully introspective lyric, “If I Can’t Love Her,” in which the Prince realizes that if he can’t love Belle, enchanted or otherwise, he’s got a real problem.


Olivia Aniceto (Ctr), Matthew Ollson (Ctr) and Company in Disney's Beauty and the Beast, Now Playing at Rose Center Theater

You may be unaware, but “Beauty and the Beast” is actually a reverse fairy-tale: instead of the prince saving the princess, the princess saves the prince. By the Beast choosing to let her go, he is also letting go of the importance he places on physical beauty (the real reason he’s under the spell). Not only is he letting go of the most beautiful person he’s ever seen, but may also be letting go of his own chance of ever being normal again. That may be the true definition of love.


Ms. Aniceto plays her part authentically—a beauty unaware of her looks. And she, like Belle, seems to be just as intelligent, strong willed, adventurous and heroic. She’s a spot-on choice to depict this iconic figure, bringing substantial stage experience to the role, while executing sweet, crisp vocals, and an ease that rivals the best.


Olivia Aniceto and Trevin Stephenson and Company in Disney's Beauty and the Beast, Now Playing at Rose Center Theater

Mr. Caputo plays the Beast with equal helpings of sadness and ferocity to balance his socially inept nervousness in the second act when he starts to fall for Belle. We suddenly see that the Beast, despite his frightening appearance, isn't as terrible as he first appears. Inside of him beats the heart of a true hero, and, in an act of self-sacrifice when he risks his life for Belle, he displays his true nature. In the end, despite an armor of fur, leather, pancake makeup and those sharp incisors (although with this beast they have opted to go fang-less), he actually manages to convey the delicacy of awakening love with nuance and depth.


Matthew Ollson (Ctr) and Company in Disney's Beauty and the Beast, Now Playing at Rose Center Theater

Kudos to Trevin Stephenson’s oooh-so-good Maître d’ and Candelabra Lumière along with the dramatic, square-toed, fuss-budgeting clock Cogsworth (the amusing Mr. Cliff Senior), and to Vincent Aniceto as the eccentric Maurice, whose sharp skills as an aerosaltant are way underused.


Kristin Caputo wrings out all the warmth you could want from her role as Mrs. Potts, topped by a lovely, delicate rendering of the Academy-award winning title song, while her young Donovan Monroe (that night) shines as an endearing Chip off the old Potts. As the operatically inclined and imperiously overstuffed armoire Madame De La Grande Bouche, Laura Pasarow Bangasser also lands a huge audience response in a scene-stealing turn.


And additional nods for fine work to Bernadette Colette Peters’ sassy, sexy feather duster Babette, and to Mark Wickham as the deranged asylum proprietor, Monsieur D’Arque.


The result is a sightseer's delight and a theatergoer's dream. Proving fairy tales work after all—even for grumps like me.


ROSE CENTER THEATER PRESENTS, DISNEY’S BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, A BROADWAY MUSICAL; With Music by ALAN MENKEN; Lyrics by HOWARD ASHMAN & TIM RICE; Book by LINDA WOOLVERTON; Directed & Musically Directed by TIM NELSON; Technical Director/Production Designer CHRIS CAPUTO; Choreographers JENNIFER SIMPSON-MATTHEWS & DIANE MAKAS; Costume Designer CAROLE ZELINGER; Wigs by CLIFF SENIOR; Stage Manager DAVID ELLIOTT; Sound RYLIE HERBEL, CAT SACKSTEDER, CAILYN STIRES; Spots ERIC & MARIANNE HEARN; Program Designer/Props SHERRE TITUS.


STARRING: OLIVIA ANICETO as Belle; CHRIS CAPUTO as Beast; MATTHEW OLLSON as Gaston; GARRETT BROWN as Lefou; LAURA PASAROW BANGASSER as Madame de la Grande Bouche; TREVIN STEPHENSON as Lumiere; CLIFF SENIOR as Cogsworth; KRISTIN CAPUTO as Mrs. Potts; BERNADETTE COLETTE PETERS as Babette; VINCENT ANICETO as Maurice; MARK WICKHAM as Monsieur D’Arque; CHARLIE FIRLIK as Chip; DONOVAN MONROE as Chip; BELLAMI SMITH as Chip; APRL MALINA as Silly Girl; JESSIE BROWN as Silly Girl; CAT SACKSTEDER as Silly Girl; CATHERINE DOSIER as Silly Girl; RYLIE HERBEL as Silly Girl; JILLIAN MATTHEWS as Silly Girl.


ENSEMBLE CAST: NATHAN ANDREAS, SANDY ANICETO, SOPHIA ANICETO, DANIEL ANTHONY, ASHKAN BASHKAR, LINDSAY BRETT, BRYCE BROADHURST, LAUREL BROOKHYSER, MATTHEW CANDELA, SETH CHRIST, KYLIE CHRISTENSEN, BAILEY CURTIS, ELLA DE PREZ, MACAILA DORNEY, CARLOS FLORES, GISELA FLORES, WINNIE FELTON, RANDALL GODDARD, HOLLY GRIFFIN, KELLI GRIFFIN, DANICA HEMMENS, DAVID HUBBARD, LAYNE KNIPFER, ALICIA MARIANO, CHARLES MARIANO, LANDON MARIANO, KYLIE MATTHEWS, SAVANNA MATTHEWS, AVA MELGOZA, CARMELA MIARS, THAI NGUYEN, SEAN OWER, BRETT POPIEL, MELANIE RABAJANTE, HANNAH ROBERT, DARIEN RORICK, AVALON ROSE, ALANA RUHE, JACOB RUSHING, NATALIE SARGENT, TASHA TAYLOR, SHERI VASQUES, DANIEL VELAZQUEZ, CHERYL WEI, KRISTIN YATA.


YOUTH CHORUS: ELLA COLLINS, LANEY LAUGHLIN, PAYTON MARIANO, CAMERON MULLIN, AMIAH ROBINETT, NATALIE SAND, ADDISON SHAY, KIARA SIMS, CAMERON WYNN.


YOUTH PRESHOW/INTERMISSION ENSEMBLE: ELIZABETH ASHLEY, HARPER BALFANY, ALLAN BANGASSER, ABIGAIL BARNABY, CHARLIE BOBAR, MOLLY BOBAR, ALEX CAMBA, LEYNA CAMBA, HARPER CASTELO, REGINA AZPIRI CERVANTES, SIERRA CHAVEZ, IRENE CHO, MAKAYLA FIRLIK, AVA GUZMAN, GABRIELA HENRIQUEZ, CAMILLA HUANG, ISLA JOHNSON, SELAH LEACH, ARABELLA LIN, SOPHIE LIVSHITS, EVELYN NGUYEN, KATIE PETERS, ANALEIGH SINGHI, SERAPHINE TRAN.


BEAUTY AND THE BEAST will be presented at WESTMINSTER ROSE CENTER THEATER from June 28th through July 14th, 14140 All American Way, Westminster. Performances are Fridays & Saturdays at 7:30PM and Sundays at 2PM. Running Time: 2 and 1/2 hours with one 15-min. intermission. Tickets may be purchased at www.rosecentertheater.com/

Chris Daniels

Arts & Entertainment Reviewer

The Show Report




Photo Credits: Jason Niedle/Tethos









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