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BEAUTY AND THE BEAST

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST is a fairytale favorite brought to life with vibrant singing and performances now playing at Moonlight Theatre through August 7th.

Jenna Lea Rosen as Belle and Michael Deni as Beast in "Beauty and the Beast" at Moonlight Amphitheatre in Vista.(Adriana Zuniga Photography
Jenna Lea Rosen as Belle and Michael Deni as Beast in “Beauty and the Beast” at Moonlight Amphitheatre in Vista.(Adriana Zuniga Photography

You probably don’t need a recap but just in case you do, this “tale as old as time”” is about a beautiful young woman named Belle (Jenna Lea Rosen) who loves to read, and has dreams bigger than her “small provincial town.” Though pursued by the town heartthrob Gaston (Evan White) who is an egotistical bully that the town adores, Belle dreams of something better for her life, or at least someone who can read a book if it doesn’t have pictures.

When her inventor father Maurice (Johnny Fletcher) gets lost in the woods on his way to the fair Belle races off to find him. She finds him being held prisoner for trespassing in the castle of a Beast (Michael Deni) who was cursed by a sorceress as a young boy. Belle offers to trade places with her father, and soon she discovers that the castle she is in is full of people who are enchanted just like their master.

Lumiere (Michael Paternostro) is a candelabra, which makes it all the more dangerous when he flirts with French maid turned feather duster Babette (Mikayla Agrella). Cogsworth (Jerald Vincent) who runs the house with precision has found himself turned into a clock. Mrs. Potts the housekeeper (Bets Malone) is a tea pot….you get the picture.

Only true love can reverse the spell, but Gaston and his sidekick Lefou (Zane Camacho) may prove an obstacle when they rile up the townspeople.

Rosen is a charming Belle, with a voice perfectly suited to the role. She is graceful and confident on stage- exactly what you’d want from a Disney princess. Her “Home” is especially touching as Belle contemplates her change in fate and circumstances.

Deni as the Beast has equally impressive vocals, and is able to give depth to a character that can so often feel lost under prosthetics and costume. His “If I Can’t Love Her” is a standout.

Paternostro and Vincent are entertaining foils to each other as Lumiere and Cogsworth. Paternostro is a funny flirt, while Vincent makes fussiness endearing. “Be Our Guest” gets an elaborate staging and dance sequence here that always proves to be an audience favorite.

Evan White as Gaston in “Beauty and the Beast” photo by
Ken Jacques

White is delightful as the prideful and preening Gaston, and his big song, naturally titled “Gaston” is another crowd pleaser with beer stein clanking dance elements, and pratfalls with Camacho’s Lefou.

Directed by Jamie Torcellini and choreographed by Bill Burns, both who were a part of the original Broadway and Los Angeles productions of the show, they pull out all the stops on this production.

The production is filled with vibrant colors from projections by Jonathan Infante and lighting by Jean-Yves Tessier. The vocals of the large 35 person cast are strong and full, and are gorgeous with the lush music from the 11 person orchestra led by Music Director and Conductor Elan McMahan.

A quick note: Gaston is very physically violent, especially to his buddy Lafou. While I know it’s the same in the animated film, it was hard not to wish there was some tempering of the physical violence for laughs in the live production, especially since so many kids see this show.

Also, fairytale origins or not, mid-17th century France was more diverse than one may think, and it would have been nice to see more of that diversity reflected in the ensemble.

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST is full of beautiful singing, colorful sets, energetic dancing and is a fitting fairytale come to life. See it at Moonlight Amphitheatre through August 7th. For ticket information go to www.moonlightstage.com

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