Reviewing Theatre For Over 40 Years
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Note: this production is currently sold out, though it may be possible that shows may be added to the schedule.
Local productions of Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” are strangely hard to come by, considering both its charm and its general popularity. Now two disparate companies have joined forces to bring a solidly entertaining rendition to the edges of the Inland Empire, as the Inland Valley Repertory Theatre (IVRT) has come to the Candlelight Pavilion Dinner Theater in Claremont to make this potentially large musical shine on a comparatively small stage. The results are endearing, for the most part. The show is well cast and the magic works.
Unless you’ve lived under a rock for the past 25 years, you know some of Disney’s version of this ancient story. Belle, the beautiful, bookish daughter of an off-beat inventor, is pursued by Gaston, the village muscle-man, but yearns for a more romantic, expansive life. When her father is captured by a fearsome beast, she trades herself for his safety, and gradually comes to know the charms of both the beast and the magical castle he lives in. Still, Gaston will not be denied.
Lindsey Joan makes a charming Belle, with just the right carriage and vocal timbre to evoke the character everyone knows without being a carbon copy of the animated version. Matt Merchant has the mixture of size and grace needed to be the Beast, and sings with a conviction which makes his sorrowful “If I Can’t Love Her” one of the truly memorable moments in the production. Michael Moon, as Gaston, has the appropriately booming voice, selfish demeanor, and physique, to make him just as obnoxiously commanding as he’s supposed to be. Frank Minano manages to keep Belle’s father just kookie enough to seem a bit odd, but still warmly paternal.
In a show like this, the quality is often underscored by the supporting cast, and here this is very much the case. Bryan Overmyer seems to truly enjoy his time as the moderately lascivious Lumiere, Stanton Kane Morales gives warmth to the pompously precise Cogsworth, Nicholas Alexander somehow manages to make himself seem smaller than he is as Gaston’s minion Lefou, and Josh Tangermann proves as creepy as expected as the sinister Monsieur D’Arque. Angela Baumgardner makes a satisfyingly motherly Mrs. Potts, while Andrew Bar gives real presence to her son, Chip, which is remarkable when you consider that he spends most of the show as the face in a teacup.
Jenny Hoffman, Emma Nossal and Bailey Day Sonner prove most tuneful as the “Silly Girls” man-mad over Gaston, and Lizzie Porcari swishes about with style as Babette. Perhaps most impressively, Holly Jamison gives Madame La Grande Bouche the truly operatic voice she is supposed to have. All these fine performances are backed up by a solid and versatile ensemble.
Director John LaLonde has a real feel for material like this, managing to keep what could be a cloyingly saccharine story earnest and touching. Janet Renslow’s choreography manages the small stage well, though the often-celebrated, elaborately-patterned stein-clicking sequence during the hearty “Gaston” falls rather flat.
Still, that’s really the only hitch in a solid production. Completely kid-friendly, “Beauty and the Beast” offers a terrific chance to expose young people to the power and charm of live theater. At Candlelight, thanks to IVRT’s arrangement with the theater, one also gets a quality meal to go with the quality production (with reduced prices for the younger audience members). The combination can make for a satisfying adventure.
What: “Beauty and the Beast” When: Through February 5. Doors open for dinner 6 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 5 p.m. Sundays, and Thursday, February 2. Doors open for lunch 11 a.m., Saturdays and Sundays Where: Candlelight Pavilion Dinner Theater, 455 W. Foothill Blvd. in Claremont How Much: $61-$76 adults, $30-$35 children under 14, meal inclusive Info: (909) 626-1254, ext. 1 or http://www.candlelightpavilion.com
The American fascination with the original, silly American musical is never-ending. Sometimes it results in revivals of some of the early greats: “42nd Street” or “Anything Goes” among them. Sometimes it leads to satire, as newer shows like “The Drowsy Chaperone” underscore our nation’s passion for their often ridiculous characters and sometimes illogical story lines. And then there is “Crazy for You,” which found the balance by giving a new, though reminiscent plot line and then peppering the piece with the best of George and Ira Gershwin’s songs.
Now at the Candlelight Pavilion Dinner Theater, “Crazy for You,” the lighthearted, comic little musical, makes a surprisingly satisfying splash on their tiny stage. There’s lots of tap dancing, plenty of tuneful moments (as one would expect from the Gershwins), many good hearted musical stereotypes, and some genuine laughs. It’s a fine, if not particularly mentally taxing way to spend an evening.
The story is basic, pre-war Broadway. Bobby Child loves to dance, but his mother wants him to settle into business and marry the wealthy and suitable Irene. After he auditions rather disastrously for Bela Zangler of the Zangler Follies, he falls in line with his mother’s dreams and heads out to serve foreclosure papers on a theater in an obscure desert town in Arizona. There he meets up with every possible western type, and a girl named Polly, and having taken on the guise of Zangler, in the best tradition of such pieces decides to gather folk and put on a show.
Chris Duir makes a fine Bobby, dancing well, singing with gusto, and also able to handle the required clowning with style. Most particularly, the mirror gag he performs with Bryan Overmyer’s Zangler takes real skill on both their parts, and earns its genuine laughs. Susanna Vaughan makes a cheery, corn fed Polly, and though the chemistry between her and Duir is not particularly strong, they charge their way through the musical with an individual vitality which makes up for it.
Among the sizable cast, Overmyer and Jenny Moon Shaw also have some fun moments as the traditional comic duo, whose brief appearance in the second act adds a layer to the comedic tone. Shaw also makes a most severe mother for the energetic Bobby, and Angela Calderon ends up almost a non sequitur as the suddenly sultry Irene. David M. Laffey sticks out even over the other silly western “types” as the large and somewhat dim Moose. Yet, one could go on and on, as the cast displays both singing and dancing talent in significant abundance.
Director Neil Dale keeps the pace flowing, while Dustin Ceithamer’s recreation of Susan Stroman’s choreography is adapted well to the much smaller space. So is the set (uncredited) which has been shrunken to fit the space without losing any of its essential elements. A bravo also goes to Mary Warde for wigs which – and you’d be surprised how unusual this is – do not look so cheap/fake as to distract from the show.
Again, “Crazy for You,” despite its comparative youth, has more in common with the popular musicals of the 30s than with anything recent. Thus it is lighthearted, airy, full of tap dancing feats and silly comedy. For a moment when all you want is entertainment, it should be very appealing. And, at Candlelight Pavilion, it comes with a lovely dinner as well.
What: “Crazy for You” When: Through April 27, doors open for dinner at 6 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, 5 p.m. Sundays, and for brunch at 11 a.m. Saturdays and Sundays Where: Candlelight Pavilion Dinner Theater, 455 W. Foothill Blvd in Claremont How Much: $53-$68 general, $25 for children 12 and under, meal inclusive Info: (909) 626-1524 ext. 1 or http://www.candlelightpavilion.com