Disney’s Beauty and the Beast
Foote in the Door Productions
Runs Nov. 13 to 17
Tickets: $18 to $28. Visit eventbrite.ca
Audiences rarely give rousing standing ovations reserved for professional companies to community theatre productions.
But it happened Saturday night at Foote in the Door production’s version of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, playing at the Westbury Theatre.
The two-hour-plus musical was everything its creators designed it to be – sweet, heartfelt and funny.
Thanks to the focal performances from Ruth Wong-Miller and St. Albert’s Russ Farmer, this predictable tale offers a fresh heartbeat.
For anyone unacquainted with the narrative, Beauty and the Beast is the story of an arrogant, self-absorbed prince who turns away an old woman in need. Although a high-born prince, he fails the test of compassion, a necessary quality for a good ruler.
The old woman is really a fairy. She turns him into a grotesque monster and enchants the entire castle along with all its inhabitants. They are trapped and the spell can only be broken when Beast falls in love with a woman who loves him unconditionally.
That woman is Belle, the town bookworm. Intelligent and curious, she yearns to escape her dull provincial life, replacing it with adventure.
Directed by Adam Kuss, the musical is Foote in the Door’s most ambitious musical to date, a 25th anniversary salute to the first Broadway production.
This show creates an expectation of the magnificent and sumptuous. It is particularly evident in Betty Kolodziej’s stunning costumes and Danielle’s Szeponski’s equally outstanding props.
It not difficult to keep your eyes on the talented Wong-Miller. As Belle, she steals the show with her sweet and powerful operatic voice. And her first-rate acting chops give us a woman who is independent yet vulnerable, curious yet kind.
As Beast, Farmer delivers his character’s myriad moods with professional finesse. Farmer balances Beast’s anger, feelings of helplessness and awkward vulnerability into a tortured soul desperately seeking redemption. His solo, If I Can’t Love Her, is one of the most powerful and emotional in the show.
Other highlights include Scott McLeod as Gaston. McLeod’s muscular Gaston is every inch the vain, egotistical villain determined to marry Belle at all costs.
McLeod’s deep baritone voice counterbalances the higher notes of St. Albert’s Edward Meideros, who plays LeFou, Gaston’s goofy sidekick.
Another joy to watch is St. Albert’s Trevor Worden as Lumiere, the French ladies’ man, and Jason Duiker as Cogsworth, the clock wound so tight he might pop a spring.
A special shout out needs to be directed to the 12-piece orchestra that also includes St. Albert trumpeter Jean Runyon, a veteran of 30 musical productions.
The grouping of freelance musicians played every piece of Alan Menken’s score with an orchestral zest that shaped this gorgeous fantasy. It sparkled with lightness, magic, and a lot of love.
Beauty and the Beast is a wonderful fairytale and a rewarding experience for the entire family.