When Disney premiered the animated version of “Beauty and the Beast” in 1991, the response was huge. It was the first animated film to earn a Best Picture Oscar nomination and won two Oscars for its music.
This spring, Disney released a live-action version of the film that went on to earn more than $1 billion at the box office world-wide.
The story has been told for hundreds of years about a young man and the staff in his castle who are cursed. They come across Belle, a young maiden from a nearby village, and believe that she can save them. But she must fall in love with the Beast in order to end the curse.
PCPA is presenting the musical at Solvang Festival Theater from June 15 to July 2. It is a tremendous production, deftly directed by Mark Booher, PCPA's artistic director.
Using the book by Linda Woolverton with music by Alan Menken and lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice from the Broadway production that premiered in 1994, Booher does a nice job moving the story along.
He is aided by fine work from choreographer Micheal Jenkinson assisted by Katie Wackowski, costume designer Judith A. Ryerson and scenic designer Jason Bolen. Of course, the success of the production lies directly with the cast and they deliver in a big way.
PCPA acting intern Annali Fuchs is simply charming as Belle, the beauty of the title. Winner of the 2014 Star Voice Competition at the Chumash Resort and a recent graduate of the PCPA conservatory, Fuchs is outstanding as a young woman with spunk, who is considered odd by the villagers because she likes to read books and dream of a wonderful future.
Belle is being pursued by a pompous hunter Gaston, played in a tremendous performance by George Walker. A teacher of acting at the conservatory, Walker gives a master class in acting as the arrogant hunter. He is aided by a funny performance by Tyler Campbell as Lefou, Gaston's aide.
Several instructors from PCPA give wonderful performances. They include Jenkinson as Cogsworth, who turns into a clock; Andrew Philpot as Lumiere, a candelabra; Kitty Balay as Mrs. Potts, who becomes a teapot; Peter S. Hadres as Belle's father Maurice; Erik Stein in two small roles; and Matt Koenig as the Beast.
Another welcome addition to the teaching staff and the cast is Bree Murphy, who returns to the Central Coast after performing at the Great American Melodrama before moving on to earn her master's degree. She plays a former opera singer, who turns into a wardrobe. Wackoski is cute as a flirtatious maid, who turns into a duster.
They all do a great job with their roles and work well with the rest of the cast, consisting of PCPA students. Koenig is wonderful as the Beast, handling several different moods throughout the story. He is mean, sad, hopeful, shy and romantic when called for.
There are several big production numbers throughout and the cast handles them all well.
There are scenes that are very funny and some very sad. The story flows along at a perfect pace and the production is first-class throughout. It is a heartwarming story of hope and love and it is well worth a visit.