Thursday, November 18, 2010

Beauty & The Beast at OCPAC

"Little town, it's a quiet village, little town, like the one before. Little town, full of little people waking up to say-"

And thus begins the familiar, epic love story, Beauty and the Beast. Good news for kids, romantics, and Disney-lovers alike: the classic tale hit OCPAC's stage on Tuesday and is currently playing nightly, with two performances (afternoon and night) scheduled for Saturday and Sunday. The only bad news is that the play's taking a short run- its closing night is this Sunday, November 21st. Amy and I were able to attend opening night, and the place was packed with enthusiastic people like us, so I advise you to plan a night and nab your tickets quickly! They start at just $20!

I think there's a bit of Belle in us all- aching for adventure, romance, and wanting a little more than what everyone says we ought to be content with. It's not that we're ungrateful, it's that, like Belle, we're dreamers. We have something in us that stirs us to pursue greatness. We have hope. 
Liz Shivener plays Belle, and along with her characteristically graceful optimism, Shivener adds a hint of sauciness- Shivener's Belle bites back a bit more than the colorful cartoon we're all used to, but she does so in a way that doesn't draw us away from the Belle we love; rather, her portrayal adds even more life and fullness to an already dynamic heroine. Picture classic Disney Belle with a sprinkle of Amy Poehler.

[Liz Shivener as Belle in Disney's Beauty and the Beast (c) Joan Marcus]

Opposite Liz Shivener is Justin Glaser as the Beast. Arguably one of the most complex Disney "princes," the Beast is a tough role to play. Glaser tackles the role with gusto, portraying a Beast that is at times intimidating and unpredictable, and at times vulnerable and misunderstood. The Beast is like an onion, and Glaser makes himself the best sort of onion. Midway through Act II, we're a bit more familiar with the Beast, and ready to chum up to him, despite his little temper tantrums. It doesn't hurt that he has the voice of an angel. Picture He-Man mixed with Josh Groban and Will Ferrell as the Devil.

[Justin Glaser as the Beast in Disney's Beauty and the Beast (c) Joan Marcus]

The play is filled with all the familiar Disney songs plus a few more new songs sprinkled into the mix. There were two show-stealing scenes, in my humble opinion; one of which was NETwork's renditions of "Be Our Guest" (in which golden-clad cutlery prances among elaborately decorated dishes and salt and pepper shakers in a beautifully choreographed number that ends with "champagne explosions" on stage and confetti streamers into the audience [who doesn't love confetti? The audience went wild]):

[Liz Shivener as Belle and the cast of Disney's Beauty and the Beast (c)Joan Marcus]

 The second of my two favorite scenes was the pub scene with the singing of "Gaston." I should back up to mention that Nathaniel Hackmann as Gaston stole the show. The man is brimming with talent and oozing personality- two traits that work well in his favor as he portrays the world's most lovable egomaniac, Gaston. Hackmann sprinkled his portrayal with freeze-frame sports/model poses, one-hand eye-brow smoothing, Elvis-like pelvic movements, and a brilliant use of chin. Picture John Travolta as Danny Zuko mixed with Uncle Jesse and add Elvis' hips. Got it? Good. 
In NETwork's performance of "Gaston," the 15 or so members of the pub crowd sing and dance in an impressively choreographed routine, complete with rhythmic metal beer stein clinking, stomping, and overall hoo-hawing. It was glorious. Words fail to fully describe it, so I will simply say this: see it.

[Justin Glaser as the Beast and Liz Shivener as Belle in Disney's Beauty and the Beast (c) Joan Marcus]

I've seen the Disney movie a thousand times, but NETwork's production still had me on the edge of my seat wondering if Belle and the Beast would fall in love before the last rose petal dropped- and anxious for a stage transformation of the Beast into a handsome prince.
SPOILER ALERT! The magical transformation did of course occur, and it was far from the cheesy, fog-machine, man-behind-the curtain swap scene from a high school drama that I half expected; the Beast's body rose into the air and swiveled by the use of what I can only assume was an invisible harness, lights flashed and twinkled (in a way that didn't interrupt the audience's perception of the scene), and truly, like magic, the Beast was transformed into a man. He and Belle have the moment of recognition, kissing ensues, warm feelings blanket the audience, and we have our ever-welcome happily ever after ending. Watch for Chip, the boy who was a teacup- he turns into quite possibly the cutest little red-haired boy imaginable. 

So, if you're in the mood for a little romance, a little magic, a little wit, and a lot of fun, grab a couple loved ones and head to OCPAC for a performance that won't disappoint. Remember: closing night is this Sunday, November 21st! So, plan a night and get your tickets now! Like I said, they start at only $20 per person!


on my iTunes: Disney's "Gaston"

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