Thursday, July 22, 2021

At Moonlight Stage Productions of “Beauty and the Beast”, A Star is Born.

 If the stars, moon and sun were all in alignment, it couldn’t have been a more perfect year for Jenna Lea Rosen (Belle) to be born. The year of her birth, 1999 was the same year her parents were performing in the First National Tour of “Beauty and the Beast”. Now, a star in in the second production of Moonlight's showy of showy shows she is a standout. She has the poise , beauty, grace, charm and the chops that give this production the grounding it needs. (“Home” and “Change In Me”). 

Jenna Lea Rosen and Michael Deni as Beauty and the Beast. Photo by Adriana Zuniga Photography

Based on Disney’s animated film of the same name, this show has all the ingredients any youngster (and adults alike) would drool over. Beautiful heroine, bright and colorful costumes (Mela Hoyt Heydon) handsome prince (Michael Deni) before he was transformed into the Beast.  

Company by Ken Jacques Photography

Included in the large cast (24 in all) Buffoon/cad/bully Gaston (Evan White), Belle’s Dad, Maurice, an eccentric inventor (Johnny Fletcher), singing and dancing table utensils, teapots. The dancing silverware and other household items, signatures of the show, are always fun to watch especially (Michael Paternostro) as Lumiere the candelabra, whose lights are ready to extinguish any moment, Jerald Vincent as Cogsworth the clock and head of household is a kick, three silly girls Taylor Evans, Carly Haig and Kaitlyn O’Leary are part of the company and great dancers, Zane Comacho is a hoot as Lefou, Gaston’s punching bag and Bryce Hamilton is Madame de la Grande Bouche.  

“Be Our Guest” song and dance number, one of the most extravagant and as production numbers go, proved to be both lively, and jaw dropping. The more familiar theme song, 'Beauty and the Beast', sung by Bets Malone is lovely.  Madame de la Gran Bouche, (Bryce Hamilton) and the grand armoire is as a strong presence throughout and was most clever.  

Evan White as Gaston. Ken Jacques Photography

(Bill Burnes choreographed) and an adorable youngster, Chip (Abraham German) “Human Again” is the face inside the tea cup. The rest of the household are frozen according to the tasks they performed in the Palace. As the teapot, Mrs Potts, Bets Malone, is spot on. 

The story of Belle a beautiful young woman sought after and perused by local cad Gaston, her  journey of beastly cordiality and finally love begins when her father, an absent minded inventor, gets lost in the mystifying forest that lies just beyond the outskirts of her little French village and is beseiged by some pretty scary looking animsls (lighting designs by Jean-Yves Tessier. )

Unbeknownst to those living in the Provencal, there is a castle hidden deep in the woods where, years earlier, a Prince who had not been very Princely turned a beggar woman away from the castle when she asked for shelter. 

Before she is sent away, she handed him a rose which not only revealed her beauty, but cast an evil spell on the Prince, turning him into a Beast;  his servants into morphed household items and his castle, a  cold and uninviting prison. No B&B that! The curse, we find, can only be broken when the Beast learns to love and is loved in return. This must happen before all the petals from the rose, which is sealed in a glass jar, fall from its stem.  

 Back in the village, Gaston tries every means including manhandling Belle to convince her to marry him strutting across the stage, flirting with the audience, flexing his muscles and just plain being obnoxious and loathsome, as he offers an absurd proposal of marriage to Belle, who quickly turns him down. 

He’s the guy you love to hate for his larger than life ego. Yet he’s so ridiculous, that its fun watching him. Ms. Rosen, as mentioned at the top of this review, is charming as Belle the deal maker/breaker for the beast. She was in fine voice on opening night and needless to say everyone was rooting for her to tame the Beast and rid herself of Gaston.  She is just the right, charming choice as Belle. 

With lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice and book by Linda Wolverton and music by Alan Menken, who is no stranger to collaborating with other artists, worked on several Disney features such as “Little Mermaid”, “Pocahontas”, and “Aladdin”. His first successful work was in the off Broadway musical, “Little Shop of Horrors” in 1982. “Beauty and the Beast” made its Broadway premiere in April of ’94   based on the Disney animated film of the same name. It was the first animated film to be nominated for The Academy Award for Best Picture. 

L to R, Michael Paternostro as Lumiere, Jerald Vincent as Cogsworth and Jenna Lea Rosen is Belle. Photo by Ken Jacques.

Director JamieTorcellin is in the director’s chair, Elan McMahan in the pit, Jonathan Infante as production designer, Jennifer Edwards technical director and special shout out to Stanly Cohen as Stage Manager.  

The show continues at 8 pm through Aug 8th. at Moonlight Amphitheatre, Brengle Terrace, Vista Ca 92804. 

Tickets range from $17.00 to $59.00.

Photo by Ken Jaques and Adriana Zuniga Photography

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