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Reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

The final event of our 2016 series of reviews is opening night of BTCT’s Beauty and the Beast at the beautifully decorated Center for the Performing Arts in Carmel. The classic tale is a fairly popular one with area theatres – this is our second viewing of a production this calendar year. But the show always seems to  capture one’s imagination, although it is a rather difficult story for most any group to tell properly, with a heap of winsome characters, intricate scoring and demanding technical aspects.

The fine direction and choreography of the show by Ron Morgan is everything we have come to expect from this noted theatre practitioner, with a plethora of choreography that is interesting and fun. Musical direction by Brent E. Marty has all voices soaring, especially in the many ensemble pieces. Trevor Fanning leads the great sounding 23 member orchestra. They add immeasurably to the texture of the production.

Also, the Civic staff has done yet another spectacular job with all technical facets. The details of the costuming designs by Adrienne Conces, the spectacular scenic and lighting designs by Ryan Koharchik, and sound design by Michael J. Lasley all contribute to the professional feel of the show, while the fine particulars of prosthetics by David Schlatter, and wig and hair designs by Debbie Williams and G. Michael Salon render a polished look.

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Virginia Vasquez (center) as Belle, joins the ensemble for “Be My Guest” in Civic Theatre’s “Beauty and the Beast”

As mentioned, the ensemble members are especially good – with top-notch efforts in the big numbers – a flashy “Be Our Guest” show-stopper being the epitome. Performers in supporting roles all handle their duties effectively. Standouts include the castle’s enchanted household staff of Cogsworth (Tom Beeler), Lumiere (David Brock), Mrs. Potts (Ragen Sanner), Babette (Lauren Leigh) and Madame De La Grande Bouche (Susan Boilek Smith) with special mention going to Ms. Sanner for her beautiful rendition of the show’s title song. Also, Andrew Dalstrom and Alex Smith offer a lively pairing as Gaston and Le Fou, respectively, while Will Carlson’s Maurice has an on-the-mark poignancy.

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Belle (Virginia Vasquez) and her father, Maurice (Will Carlson) share a moment in Civic Theatre’s “Beauty and the Beast”

Will Tople brings considerable talents to his portrayal of the Beast and has a precise understanding of the many emotions at work in the character. His “If I Can’t Love Her” is one of the highlights of the show.

Lastly, Virginia Vasquez is the perfect Belle. She plays the part with a thoughtful ease and her melodic voice is truly a marvel – one could listen to her sing for hours. But it is her talent for expressive interpretation that sets her apart, I think. Ms. Vasquez brings truthful emotion to the performance of her songs. Her rueful rendition of “Home”, and her hopeful “A Change in Me” are both great examples of this performer’s uncommon talents.  All told, I think her Belle may well be my favorite of all I have seen.

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Le Fou (Alex Smith), Gaston (Andrew Dalstrom) and Belle (Virginia Vaquez) in a scene from Civic Theatre’s “Beauty and the Beast”

Bottom-line: As usual, dozens of small girls with roses dotted the audience. This is a wonderful production for them and for their parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles to bring them (and their brothers) to. Thoroughly enjoyable and well-crafted, Beauty and the Beast makes for yet another special holiday treat.

Disney’s Beauty and the Beast continues at Carmel’s Center for the Performing Arts through January 1st. For ticket information and reservations call 317.843.3800 or go online at http://www.civictheatre.org .

  • – Photos by Zach Rosing

 

 

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