Peninsula Youth Theatre is mounting an extravaganza not to be missed. Beauty and the Beast is just about the perfect musical. The fairy tale dates back to 1740, originally penned by French novelist Gabriell-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve. Since then, there have been many invocations of the story in various forms, from print to film on both the large and small screens. Although it wasn’t the first time the story made it to the big screen, Disney released its animated spectacular with a Broadway-like score in 1991 and then transformed it into a Broadway musical in 1994. More recently, audiences have enjoyed the live action version of the Disney story in the 2017 film of the same name.
When Disney began production of its animated version of the story, the Broadway musical team of Alan Menken and Howard Ashman wrote the music and lyrics. Although Ashman died before the film’s release, his lyrical work remained, and Tim Rice was brought in to work with Menken on the expanded version destined for the Broadway stage. Linda Woolverton wrote the book, first for the animated film, and later expanded it into the full two-act stage version. The stage musical characters are deeper, and the story tugs at the emotions of the audience.
The story is now very well-known. A spoiled young prince shuns what he thinks is a haggard old woman offering a single rose in trade for shelter because her appearance offends him. She warns him to look beyond appearances, but he’s far too self-absorbed to listen. She’s really a powerful enchantress who teaches him the most valuable life lesson imaginable. Turning him into a hideous beast, she tells him that if he can learn to love, and be loved in return, the spell can be broken. Alas, the prince isn’t the only one caught up in the curse. Everyone in his employ is also affected, and each is slowly becoming an inanimate object. And so the race is on. Can the prince break the spell before the last rose petal drops?
The result is “a tale as old as time” filled with comedy, heartfelt laments, action, and adventure for the entire family. Several new or expanded musical numbers appear in this stage adaptation that were not in the original animated film. Interestingly, the 2002 Special Edition DVD release of the animated version includes one of those expanded numbers (“Human Again”). It was originally written for the animated film but was cut for length for the theatrical release.
Director/choreographer Brian Miller and vocal director Holly Smolik have shaped two very large and enthusiastic casts to bring their vision to life with an energy that is contagious. Both Miller and Smolik have a great affinity for youth theatre, and they are experts in harnessing their actors’ unbounded energy for good. The result is astounding as these young actors (aged 8-18) strut their stuff with confidence and execute some very challenging choreography with precision and pride.
The music in this show is also beautiful. The score has a very classical feel as it adds great drama to the action, and the songs will stay with audiences long after they leave the theatre.
There will be no A Good Reed Review review of this one as I will be on the podium leading the very talented community orchestra. The musicians include: woodwinds: Doreen Oroshnik, Marty McHan, Rebecca Ritger, Steven Holmes; strings: Jaime Yuen, Karen Law, Jessica Yuen, Rob Gloster, Jonathan Erman, Dan Meyers, Stephanie Spaid; brass: Dan Swinehart, Ed Lacina; keyboards: Del Quan, Karen Adkins; and percussion: Bob Wylie. Not all musicians will be playing every performance.
This is a lively and touching show that is appropriate for all ages, so don’t miss it. Get your tickets now before they are all gone.
What: Beauty and the Beast
Where: Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, 500 Castro Street, Mountain View, CA.
When: 3-11 March 2018, see: Beauty and the Beast at PYT for more information.
From another perspective, why call this the perfect Disney musical? Jordan Peterson talks about how Beauty and the Beast is one of the very best that Disney has to offer:
Beauty and the Beast: 25th Anniversary (DVD)
Beauty and the Beast: The Broadway Musical
Beauty and the Beast: The Broadway Musical (Sheet Music)