by Terrance Mc Arthur
“Be our guest!”
The Good Company Players have invited all to a joyous production of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast at Roger Rocka’s Dinner Theater through January 8. Feast and enjoy!
If you had a child…or were a child…you probably know the Disney version of Beauty and the Beast forwards and backwards, but there is something about seeing people on the stage that makes it even more…more… than it was before. Theatre is a different kind of magic.You know how it goes. Self-centered prince snubs the wrong witch and is turned into a Beast reflecting the ugliness in his heart. All the castle workers are turned into objects related to their jobs and character. In a French village, Belle is different—more beautiful, more imaginative, more bookish, and more independent, which attracts a self-centered hunter-pubkeeper. Her father is an eccentric inventor who gets lost and winds up in the enchanted castle. The Beast demands Belle in return for the man’s freedom…and the tale as old as time has begun. The Good Company Players have always been careful to have understudies ready to step in for performers who become ill or who have schedule conflicts, a practice that has become more important in the Covid era. On opening night, Kaitlyn Dean substituted for Meg Clark as Belle. Dean was strong and powerful, with a beautiful singing voice, and she didn’t need a prince. Oddly enough, from Clark’s previous performances in Daddy Longlegs and Young Frankenstein, I think of her as strong and powerful, with a beautiful singing voice, also. Either way, whoever plays Belle, the audience wins.
Peter Hartley, as the Prince who becomes the Beast, booms convincingly with the help of audio reverb. He can be mean and cruel when forcing a father to sacrifice his daughter, or introspective when doubting he will ever escape his curse, and slowly melting as love conquers arrogance. His transformations between forms and makeups are aided by body doubling.Jeremy Marks has grown from his days in the GCP Junior Company into adult roles with the company, and he has smartly been given the role of Gaston, Belle’s overbearing, narcissistic, menacing suitor. His challenge to the Beast looks like a real battle of rivals, and his songs ring out with clarity.
Roger Christensen is always a pleasure to see on the stage, and his befuddled look as Maurice, father of Belle and eccentric inventor, is comforting in his doting on his daughter. Zachary Kelley is true to the nature of Gaston’s flunky Lefou, as sycophantic and obsequious as the animated version was.
Among the transformed castle staff, Mrs. Potts and her son, Chip, have always cornered the aww factor. Tracy Jones as the lady teapot is gentle, supportive, and knocks the title song out of the park. Finley Van Vleet (who alternates with Alaric Cameron) is a cheerful, clear-voiced, and wistful Chip, and works with Cameron in the “Be Our Guest “ production number as a Salt to his Pepper.Lumiere, the candelabra with an attitude, is rendered by Michael Fidalgo as even more manic than his Igor in the recent Young Frankenstein, perfect for the Be Our Guest number. Adrian Ammsso is stuffy and anxious as the butler/clock Cogsworth, who really gets wound up over the smallest problem. Amalie Larsen is expansive as the diva/chest of drawers Madame De La Grand Bouche (What a voice!).
Kaye Migaki’s choreography is energetic, as always. Laurie Pessano’s direction is sure-footed, and her additional choreography turns tin cups into musical instruments and tap shoes (Some judicious script-cutting strengthened the confrontation between Gaston and the Beast). Judith Dickinson coached the vocal interpretations, and creates a unified sound that rings to the rafters. David Pierce’s set miraculously crams a castle and a French village into the Dinner Theater’s pocket-size stage.
This show is a giant, colorful Christmas present to the families of the Valley. Go ahead, bring the kids, and watch them be quiet and attentive . . . and you will be, too.
The show plays at Roger Rocka’s Dinner Theater, 1226 N. Wishon, in Fresno. Tickets can be purchased on their website or by calling the box office at (559) 266-9494.
If you love local theatre, be sure to check out Mysteryrat’s Maze Podcast, which features mysteries read by local actors. You can find the podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play, and also on podbean.