Families swoon over 'Beauty and the Beast' at Redhouse

Review: The pleasant rendition of Disney’s 1991 award-winning animated feature provided the audience with enthusiastic and humorous, yet heartfelt performances.

At first glance, it was hard to imagine how an extravagant and familiar Disney story would unfold in the intimate space of the Redhouse Arts Center. But as the actors took the stage, the audience was magically transported to a secluded French village surrounded by lush green trees, houses and bakeries.

Through the story of a selfish prince trapped under a spell that can only be broken by love, the musical explores the same themes of love, beauty and redemption of the classic French fairy tale. The production, which ran on Broadway from 1994 to 2007, features music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice, and book by Linda Woolverton.

Photo: Courtesy of Genevieve Fridley Photography
Cameron Smith as Gaston in Disney's Beauty and the Beast at Redhouse Arts Center.

"At its essence, this story is a fairy tale, a love story, and a wonderful reminder of the very things that unify humanity: we all want to love and to be loved," director Patrick Burns said.

The cast features the talents of local actors and high school students. Each cast member is worth noting, but Caroline Strang as Belle and Temar Underwood as the Beast understandably stood out from the rest. The audience swooned at the sound of their impressive voices and applauded after every song.

Strang not only had amazing vocals but a prodigious stage presence as well. And when she sang of internal transformation in “A Change in Me,” it was easy to get lost in her words.

Also impressive was the stage crew, who assisted with smooth scene changes as the audience was taken back and forth from the village to the forest and, finally, to the enchanted castle.

Steve Hayes as Cogsworth and Jason Timothy as Lumiere brought the laughs, allowing for a sense of silliness to balance out the sensitivity of the vital messages and kept children engaged.

The singing and dancing included familiar songs like “Be Our Guest,” which was accompanied by a live band.

Overall, the cast did a magnificent job of performing an old fairy tale for a new generation. The sweet life messages from decades ago remain important today. Perfect for family entertainment during the holiday season, the show reminds us all that beauty lies within.

Beauty and the Beast will run through Dec. 17 at Redhouse Arts Center, but is quickly selling out.

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