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Beauty and the Beast a magical presentation
Beauty and the Beast a magical presentation
by Miryam Gordon - SGN A&E Writer

Beauty and the Beast
The Village Theater
Issaquah through January 4
Everett, January 4-February 1


Disney's movie Beauty and the Beast was a sensation when it was released because of the clarity and depth of the cartooning techniques. We take it all for granted now, but it was a breakthrough movie at the time. Also, the songs were catchy, fun and easy to remember. The stage version, now playing at The Village Theater, has all the famous songs and characters. It's one of the most "movie-like" adaptations you can see.

Heading up a superb cast is Jennifer Paz as Belle. Paz's voice is sure and steady, hitting all the high notes and conveying every emotion. Paz is adroit in the comedy sections and fetchingly appealing when there is danger threatening. Complementing Paz as the Beast is Eric Polani Jensen. He benefits from his imposing frame and his powerful voice in frightening those around him, but also believably softens as he falls in love with Belle.

In case you had your head under a rock or shunned anything kids liked back then, the story is about a man who treats a witch badly and she curses him with the form of a beast until he is loved for what he is underneath. A lost man finds his castle in the woods and the Beast captures him, and when the man's daughter comes to free him, she offers to take her father's place. Belle has enough spunk to stand up to the Beast and demand to be treated nicely. Over time, of course, they fall in love, though there are a few complications before the wholly expected happy ending.

In Disney's rendition, the servants of the Beast follow him into this curse and are very slowly changing into inanimate objects that are similar to their personalities. The stuffy butler (John X. Deveney) is turning into a grandfather clock, the butler (Nick DeSantis, stealing the show with kitschy antics) is becoming a candlestick and the cook (Bobbi Kotula) is becoming a teapot. They must help the Beast fall in love or forever change their shapes and lose their humanity.

The rest of the cast is uniformly good. The entire presentation might be translated onto a Broadway stage with no loss of audience appeal. The complicated sets and lighting by Alex Berry, beautiful costumes by Deane Middleton, orchestral accompaniment directed by Tim Symons and intricate choreography by Steve Tomkins with an assist from Daniel Cruz, are held together by Tomkins' confident direction. If there could be a flaw in the program, it's Tomkins' adherence to every note and word in the script. It's a long program.

All the kids' favorite songs are there, including a show-stopping "Be Our Guest," when the entire household of plates, salt and pepper shakers and silverware dance together. Another frantic, but carefully planned, scene occurs when villagers attack the castle and these servants inventively defend the castle.

The villagers are incited by a jealous Gaston, played with a sly wink by Troy L. Wageman, when Gaston is rejected as a suitor by Belle. One of the funniest scenes is a duet between Paz and Wageman, as he offers to marry her and picks her up and throws her around like a rag doll, since their sizes are so significantly different. It's great choreography, maybe not as possible with a different set of actors more physically similar in size. The deadpan expression on Paz's face as she is dragged around is priceless.

There are a couple of draggy moments, including when the Beast is despondent over letting Belle go, and maybe a couple of songs don't have to be quite so long. But, after waiting for it, the climax where all the servants become human again is so affecting the audience applauded for each character as he or she reveled in being back to normal.

It's definitely family fare, but there's quite enough to captivate and interest adults to help you hang in there. The romance and the message are a nice antidote to the messy outside world.

For more information, go to www.villagetheatre.org or call (425) 392-2202.

Comments on reviews go to sgncritic@gmail.com.

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