From show-stopping song-and-dance numbers to spectacular sets and costumes, Beauty and the Beast is pure enchantment.
The fairy tale Disney musical opened at the Red Deer College Arts Centre on Thursday and cast its familiar spell on the full-house crowd.
Visually, the show — that’s already sold out for its entire run — is captivating.
The spinning set, by Carrie Hamilton, revealed a beautifully designed rustic French village, teaming with colourful bakers, book sellers and housewives going to market.
There was the feminist bookworm Belle, played by Kayla Whittingham, weaving her way through the bustling villagers, and avoiding the great wind-bag Gaston (Benjamin Terlesky) who left fawning wenches sighing in his wake.
There was also Belle’s kooky inventor father (Andrew McKechnie), some menacing red-eyed wolves, and a gilded castle hidden in the woods, full of an enchanted courtiers turned into clocks, candelabras and feather-dusters.
And of course there was the misunderstood Beast (Nathan Martin), who needs to make Belle fall in love with him in order to regain his human appearance.
The stage show adapted from an award-winning animated film adds a few of its own ingenious touches, such as the shadow puppet play that explains the back story of how the handsome, but vain prince was turned into a hideous beast.
But the musical mostly sticks to the tried-and-true formula of the beloved film. It contains the same plot line and all of the memorable show tunes, including Be Our Guest, Something There, Gaston and the Academy Award-winning Beauty and the Beast song (with music by Alan Menken and Lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice).
All that’s needed to pull off the magical script by Linda Woolverton is a highly talented cast and production crew — and luckily, this show has these in spades.
RDC Theatre Studies Director Darold Roles again showed his talent for choreographing large-scale musical numbers that manage to be breath-taking, despite involving largely novice dancers.
For the Gaston song, Roles got the cast expertly swinging beer steins under their legs and over their shoulders.
For Be Our Guest, Roles got heavily costumed dancers to move like pros to the music, doing the splits — and even the can-can.
This was no mean feat, considering that some of the costumes, designed or co-ordinated by Brian Bast, were in the awkward shape of dishes, salt and pepper shakers, an egg beater, some napkins, a cheese grater and a corkscrew.
Above the dancing utensils, two large sun-like motifs were lit up, as sparkles and streamers floated to the ground — now that’s Broadway, baby!
This musical also needs great singers, and all the leads fit the bill. Whittingham, Martin and Terleskey have exceptionally fine voices — as does Kelsey White as Mrs. Potts the teapot.
Offering good support were Chad Pittura as the candelabra Lumiere, Justin Bronson as Cogsworth the clock, and nine-year-old Connor MacDougall as the teacup Chip (he shares the role with Jase Nelson).
The cast members were collectively charming because they understood the importance of making their characters resemble the ones in the film.
Lumiere, Cogsworth and Babette, the feather duster, played by Niamh Taylor, had great rapport. So did Terlesky, as the lunk-head Gaston and his lackey LeFou (Shane Gramlich) — who were truly funny together.
Of course at heart, Beauty and the Beast is a love story, so it was great to see the chemistry between Whittingham and Martin, who created some lovely moments.
To everyone who managed to get tickets to this Christmas-time musical: Get set for a great show.
To those who are missing out: Better luck next year — and rent the DVD.