By JADE GOODES
Comtra Theatre‘s production of the Disney classic is just the thing to warm your heart on a cold fall night. While this production doesn’t always have steady footing, its missteps are overshadowed by enchanted performances and beautiful costumes that add a new perspective on a tale as old as time.
Disney’s Beauty and the Beast is the classic tale of not judging a book by its cover. The stage production is based on the 1991 Disney film of the same name, which takes inspiration from the fairytale by Gabrielle-Suzanne de Villeneuve.
In a quiet part of France resides a spoiled, selfish, and unkind prince placed under a powerful spell that turns him into a monstrous beast. If the Beast cannot learn to love and find someone to return that love, he will be cursed to remain a beast for all time. In another country, a smart, kind, and headstrong young woman named Belle lives with her father in a small provincial town. When Belle’s father goes missing, she finds him imprisoned by the Beast and takes his place to save his life. Is Belle the one to break the spell? Can the Beast learn to change his ways?
Beauty and the Beast at Comtra Theatre in Cranberry resides in what used to be an old barn along Route 19. The theater in the round space provides new and intimate ways to showcase classic shows and new favorites. I came in skeptical, wondering how a large-scale production such as Beauty and the Beast would be performed in this space. The space limits the cast size and the use of large set pieces and props. While I found the space limited the production in how far they could take these traditionally large-scale musical numbers, I feel they still delivered a charming show that held the heart of the original story. I credit one of these reasons to the cast.
The cast of Beauty and the Beast provides magical performances that assist in making this production shine. At the show’s helm is Carolyn Smith as Belle and Mike Goffus as the Beast. Smith effortlessly embodies the Disney Princess, and I appreciate her bold choices and the new perspective she brought to the character. Belle felt more feisty, headstrong, and determined than I have seen her played in the past. Goffus has strong vocals and can deliver a compelling performance as the tortured, misunderstood prince. Smith and Goffus have great chemistry, and I especially enjoyed their banter. A few other notable performances were Josh Clark as Lefou, who provided great comedic relief throughout the show. His stage presence and his commitment to the part’s physical aspects helped bring out the silliness of the character. Harper Kesslak is adorable and sweet as Chip in her first-ever musical theatre production. John Kiewall, Matt Ferra, and Christy Rodibaugh are the perfect trio as Lumiere, Cogsworth, and Mrs. Potts. Their chemistry is divine, and they perfectly capture the magic, wit, and charm of these iconic enchanted objects.
While this production loses out on the full-scale sets and props typically found in this show, they still find ways to enchant their audience. One of these ways is with their costumes, particularly those of the enchanted objects. I was rather impressed by the costumes provided by Spotlight Costumes. It helped to create immersion into this magical Disney world. The costume and cart for Chip is my favorite piece in the show. It’s simple in its design but perfectly captures the story’s magic. My other favorite costume piece in the show is Belle’s iconic gold gown. When Smith stepped out in the dress, I heard a collective gasp. The dress is beautiful, and I loved how it stayed true to the OG dress from the film while finding a way to make it unique for this production.
Director Tom McLaughlin beautifully captures the magic and charm of Beauty and the Beast while adding elements that make this production stand out from others. I had a few issues with staging, my main gripe being the Beast climbing awkwardly up and down a narrow staircase in a massive clunky suit repeatedly. Sometimes, I felt little to no action being done on stage, while other times, the direction felt creative and inspiring. An overall lack of consistency kept the production from being fantastic. It’s an enjoyable show but has some hindrances that affect the overall outcome of the production.
Comtra’s Beauty and the Beast is a magical show that all ages will enjoy. This is the perfect show to bring the little ones to and a great outing for the entire family. While I found elements of the show to be a tad lacking, overall, this production is full of heart, warmth, and charm. You and your family will not want to miss this tale as old as time.
TICKETS AND DETAILS
Beauty and the Beast is at Comtra Theatre in Cranberry through October 15. Tickets can be purchased here: https://comtratheatre.ticketleap.com/disney-beauty-and-the-beast/?mibextid=Zxz2cZ