Review: Maine State Music Theatre's BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (2024)

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In a colorful, imaginative retelling of this “tale as old as time,” MSMT opens its 2024 TYA series with a revival of Robin and Clark’s version of BEAUTY AND THE BEAST. The production, directed by Betsy Puelle, not only offers a contemporary twist on the classic fairytale, but also layers onto that version another dimension of fantasy and fun. Setting the ancient story as a play within a modern play, Robin and Clark create the dual perspective that characterizes many of their musicals and allows the actors to break the fourth wall and engage the youngsters directly. The narrator, a schoolgirl named Cindy, fashions – often improvises - her version of the story, lobbies to have it produced, and eventually plays a pivotal role in the work. Employing MSMT’s exciting new video technology, a stellar cast of young professionals, and incorporating large-scale, whimsical puppetry into the mix, this BEAUTY AND THE BEAST proves the resilience of the source material and the creative genius of the company.

Robin and Clark’s seventy-minute version retains the central message of the tale - that true beauty comes from within and that love is redemptive. The book follows the essentials of the fairytale, though the characters are fleshed out with contemporary charm, and the play within the play device allows for clever use of anachronisms and some parody. Marc Robin’s score is melodic and appealing, alternating between poignant ballads and witty spoofs with opportunities for vocal virtuosity, while Curt Dale Clark’s lyrics are catchy, smart, and adroit.

Music Director Jacob Stebly brings the lush and lively score to life and draws strong vocal performances from the cast.

Directed and designed by Betsy Puelle, the production exudes cohesiveness and charm. The giant Angel puppet, created by Puelle, adds a dimension of enhanced fantasy, while Veronica Druchniak’s graceful and sophisticated choreography juxtaposes modern idioms like the cha cha with classic ballet pas de deux.


Review: Maine State Music Theatre's BEAUTY AND THE BEAST


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Review: Maine State Music Theatre's BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (1)The visual production combines Puelle’s period design with Colin Riebel’s opulent video projections and Flo Cooley’s rich lighting palette. Kayla Chen provides the well-balanced sound and special effects including the amplified voice of The Beast. Cooley (Kevin S. Foster II, wigs) also creates the sumptuous 18th century costumes that nod to the classic Disney production while exhibiting an originality of their own. Megan Franco anchors the proceedings skillfully as Stage Manager. Thanks to the excellence of these creatives and also to the new technology, this is surely one of the most lavish and spectacular Family Series stagings in memory.

The youthful cast embraces the material with exceptional energy and enthusiasm and demonstrates their remarkable triple threat talents.

Christian Lane Miller as Chadwick/The Beast brings a powerful, expressive tenor and dramatic poignancy to the role. As Rose (Belle), Jessica Hoadley uses her creamy soprano to impressive effect in numbers like “It’s Too Late to Say I Love You,” and she projects independence, compassion, and tenderness. Mark Tran Russ has great fun portraying the narcissistic Studley (Gaston) and delivers his signature anagrammatic solo with its vocal fireworks with charming panache.

Thomas Dal Ceredo makes a tender-hearted Papa/Cogsworth, while Karoline Brechter and Calista Jones are appropriately cheeky and vain as Rose’s self-absorbed sisters (and Mrs. Potts and the Wardrobe respectively). Nate Krohmer gives a delightfully animated performance as the quirky butler, Maxwell/Lumiere and makes the most of his clever number, “Rules of the House” - which, when reprised with Papa added to Druchniak’s choreography proves deliciously comic. As Cindy, the girl who engineers the retelling of the tale, Lav Raman conveys youthful enthusiasm and demonstrates her vocal gifts in a strongly sung “Imagination.” Druchniak (and later Raman) are imposing as the larger-than-life puppet. Lizzie Hall adds support as one of the play’s stagehands.

Review: Maine State Music Theatre's BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (2)It is not difficult to understand why MSMT decided to revive this title after a short interval. The almost thirty-year-old Robin & Clark version retains its freshness and charm and sparkles with warmth, humor, and heartwarming inspiration. This creative duo know how to capture the fancy and hearts of young folks and involve the audience viscerally in the performance. The theatrical world created at the Pickard alIows youngsters (and the young at heart) to revel in the transformative power of love and the magic created by unfettered imagination.In their bright-eyed, upturned faces, lit with laughter and awe, one catches a glimpse of the theatre’s audience of the future.

Photos courtesy of MSMT, Dane Whitlock, photographer

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST ism performed at MSMT’s Pickard Theatre on the Bowdoin College campus, 1 Bath Rd., Brunswick on June 10 at 10:00 a.m., 1:00 p.m. 4:00 p.m. and a sensory friendly performance at 6:00 p.m. 207-725-8769

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Review: Maine State Music Theatre's BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (2024)
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