Free Lance-Star Review: Riverside's 'Beauty and the Beast'

By Amanda Montag The Free Lance-Star - Oct 10, 2018

Everyone knows the story of “Beauty and the Beast.” One of Disney’s most beloved and popular movies, it tells the story of a vain, cruel prince who is cursed to live as a beast after turning an old woman away from his castle for her appearance. Only by learning to love someone and be truly loved in return can the prince break the spell. Enter Belle, an independent village girl who dreams of more outside her quaint little village.

Riverside Center for the Performing Arts brings this classic story to life with all of the favorite songs and characters from the 1991 animated feature, but it also offers fans and newcomers so much more to enjoy. What makes this show stand out are the quieter moments that resonate with the audience. That is what Riverside is trying to shine a light on: the relationships at the heart of the story.

Nicki Elledge slides seamlessly into the role of Belle, illustrating her character’s effervescent charm and goodness as the girl who just wants more out of life and to see adventure that she finds in her books. The relationship between her and her father, Maurice (played by Robert Beard), is seen more clearly in the play than it was in the movie. You can see how much these two “outcasts” really love and admire each other. They are each other’s biggest cheerleaders and you can see that on stage.

Meanwhile, Wyn Delano roars onto the stage as the beast, truly encompassing his anger, but also the self-doubt and uncertainty that helps viewers connect with this creature. You can see his growth into a better person throughout the play.

For those who enjoy the more comedic side of the story, you can’t go wrong with the pairing of Rj Pavel and Alan Hoffman as Lumière and Cogsworth, respectively. They bounce quick darts at each other every time they are onstage and really play up the camaraderie the characters have. More of the slapstick-type comedy is brought to life brilliantly by Zachary Bullock as LeFou. He plays up the character’s dim-wittedness and anything-to-please attitude but manages not to go overboard.

As for the music, the big musical numbers like “Be Our Guest” and “Gaston” were obvious crowd-pleasers and did a great job of showcasing the talented ensemble and Stephanie Woods’ choreography. However, it was the quieter songs that really gripped the heart. Belle and Maurice’s “No Matter What” illustrated how this father-and-daughter duo would always be there for each other, and The Beast’s solo “If I Can’t Love Her” gave Delano a chance to reveal his character’s struggles to be someone better, a person deserving of  Belle’s love. Finally, Sherri L. Edelen as Mrs. Potts did a tremendous job in the title song “Beauty and the Beast.”

While the play and actors were excellent, that is not to say everything was perfect. There were a few production issues that needed to be ironed out. Seeing stagehands appearing in the middle of a scene to move props offstage can be a bit distracting, and there were some sound and feedback issues with actors’ mics for this particular performance.

Technical issues aside, “Beauty and the Beast” is a great show for the entire family. Fans of the animated film will delight in seeing their favorite characters brought to life. Even those who aren’t already in love with the fairy tale might just fall in love with the beautiful, timeless story after seeing it portrayed in this fine production of a classic.

Amanda Montag: 540/374-5000

amontag@freelancestar.com