A favorite Disney classic comes to life at The Ritz Theatre
I have seen this show a lot since November of last year between the new live action movie and the plethora of local community theatre groups that have mounted their visions (yes, visions not versions). The production that has opened this weekend at The Ritz Theatre in Haddon Township, NJ is in the top two on my list despite it’s short comings.
As the story began we heard a very familiar voice tell us how it all started. Mr. Rick Williams, 6ABC News anchor, lent his voice to the prologue. It was a nice change of pace for this portion of the show as Mr. Williams has a timber more like a tenor then the usual dark baritone voice we are used to hearing. It lightened up the beginning of the show and made the transition into this quaint little town a smooth one.
Belle enters, the curtain opens and we are present in the provincial little town as we continue through our story. A story that for the most part is enjoyable even though there could have been better blocking and much more energy.
Anabelle Garcia played Belle. She acted the part beautifully but at times her singing was not on my favorites list. There were a lot of short and long notes where she sounded like she was shivering as she was singing. I initially thought maybe she is still working on vibrato control but the more she sang the more I realized she did have control of her vibrato as some long notes were clean and utterly beautiful. Belle’s costumes seem to be a hybrid version of the animated series and the most recent live action movie. For the most part I liked them but there was one I thought should not have been used. I am not going to specify as I don’t want to be a spoiler but if you go see this production I’m sure you’ll figure it out. Bell’s Beast, Bryan M. Pitt had the same shivering voice and acting level as his co-star. There were times where the lighting made it difficult to see his facial expressions but his body language and inflections made up for it. The two were very comfortable with each other and that made their interactions very real and for that alone you should go see this production.
Bruce Cureless’ Maurice is very believable and his costumes were perfectly suited for his take on this loveable and quirky inventive dad. David M. Mooney’s Cogsworth and Achilles Iverso’s Lumiere were the perfect match up! They couldn’t have played off each other any better and their timing was impeccable. They had some difficulties with costumes in act I but they got those sorted at intermission and came back for a Act II where they put them to proper use. Tami Gordon Brody’s Mrs. Potts lack the energy that we are used to seeing from this bubbly and sometimes sassy mum of the castle but her voice was appropriately pleasant for a ‘Tale as Old as Time’ lullaby. Now, when it comes to LeFou I feel this character should have a level of physicality that is equivalent to John Ritter’s in Noises Off but this director did not see it that way. Regardless, Matt Flacco made what he was given work in his favor so LeFou was still the loveable, silly side-kick we have grown accustomed to. Nicholas French’s Gaston was about as energetic as Mrs. Potts and his costume during Act II could have been better. From the moment he stepped onto the stage I couldn’t help wondering when Batman was going to enter. His black pants, red vest and green quarter cape made me feel that Gaston morphed into Robin during the intermission. The enchanted objects, townspeople, and remaining supporting characters Babette, Monsieur D’Arque, Chip and the Silly Girls held the show together in the manner by which they should.
The set design used the available space well, particularly for the castle. The reveal of the library was the best I have seen yet, outside of Broadway of course, and the transformation was very well thought out. Jen Tracy’s painted stain glass rose and 3D representation of the fireplace and castle brick is superb.
So, ‘No Matter What’ spot this Disney show sits at on your favorite Disney Stories list this production is one that you will enjoy so make some time to see it.
Beauty and The Beast through August 6th
The Ritz Theatre
915 White Horse Pike
Haddon Township, NJ
Review by Nicole Manning