Beauty and the Beast
by San Diego Junior Theatre

Anthony Kaneaster and Blair Hollingsworth. Photo by Ken Jacques.San Diego Junior Theatre ends their 57th season with a beautiful and lavish production of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. Based on the popular film version that earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture (with a few extra songs added), this enchanting crowd-pleaser has been making several runs through San Diego this year, and Director Michael Anthony makes sure Junior Theatre’s is one of the best with this show featuring very high production values and a top-notch cast.

You know they’ve got a few tricks up their sleeves immediately, as the moose head on Gaston’s hunting chair comes to life (with movable mouth, neck, and ears) and kicks things off by requesting everyone to turn off their cell phones unless they want to end up like him…This is followed by an Enchantress (Rachel Foodman, later appearing as an acrobatic rug) who flies up in anger at an arrogant prince’s rejection, launching the tale as old as time – the story of a hideous Beast who has to change his monstrous personality, and the beautiful and intelligent Belle who must see the Beast’s new interior beauty to save him and all the residents of his doomed castle.

Blair Hollingsworth is Belle the Beauty and with a voice to match, also turning in a fine comedic performance during the vain Gaston’s hilarious marriage proposal and later a dramatic finale when it looks as if all might be lost. Anthony Kaneaster is the Beast, nicely transitioning from the gruff, uncouth monster to the giddy romantic. And Alexander Vassos is a riot as the Beast’s rival Gaston, his suave and humorously easy sense of unabashed arrogance making him a guy you love to hate.

Brian Polk, Anthony Kaneaster, Alex Fleming. Photo by Ken Jacques.Backing the leads up is a remarkable cast of supporting actors who work to make this one of Junior Theatre’s greatest shows, beginning with one of the greatest duets – Brian Polk as the candelabra Lumiere and Alex Fleming as his counterpart, Cogsworth the clock. Brian’s natural sense of humor, facial expressions, and voice light up the stage, and Alex demonstrates an innate feel for the part of Cogsworth, perfectly capturing the character’s quirkily stuffy and neurotic personality with his subtle looks, timing, and waddling walk. Stephanie Ward is a rip as the opera singer imprisoned in the body of a bureau, Stephanie Kreutz is a matronly Mrs. Potts with Hannah Prater’s head as her too-adorable Chip, and Lisha Brown is terrific as the flirtatious feather duster Babette – especially when engaging in a jealousy war with boyfriend Lumiere. Outside of the enchanted castle, Seth Biberstein is a hoot as Gaston’s sidekick Lefou who has to do some serious straining to think very hard, Tyler Knell is Belle’s eccentric old coot of a father, and the three highly animated Silly Girls (Emily Shackelford, Alyssa Schechter, and Meagan Rossin) are extremely silly and extremely funny throughout as they chase after everyone’s favorite guy Gaston.

Michael Anthony’s deeply talented ensemble make for phenomenal, eye-popping song-and-dance numbers like the celebration of Gaston, the enchanted objects’ hopeful Human Again, and of course the big, splashy, unforgettable Be Our Guest dinner party, all aided by Mibs Somerville’s impressive and colorful costumes and beautiful lighting effects by Ginger Harris. Chris Rynne’s ambitious set is cleverly designed to turn inside-out, becoming either the castle interior or the forest, all done through a number of large rolling pieces. Maneuvering them about for the various scenes looked extraordinarily complicated, and lofty credit must be given to the stagehands who were as well choreographed as the ensemble, magically making all the transitions work pretty smoothly.

Performs through August 14, 2005.

Rob Hopper
National Youth Theatre

~ Cast ~
Alexander Vassos and Blair Hollingsworth. Photo by Ken Jacques.Belle: Blair Hollingsworth
Beast: Anthony Kaneaster
Gaston: Alexander Vassos
Maurice: Tyler Knell
Cogsworth: Alex Fleming
Mrs. Potts: Stephanie Kreutz
Lumiere: Brian Polk
Chip: Hannah Prater
Babette: Lisha Brown
Mdm. de la G. Bouche: Stephanie Ward
Lefou: Seth Biberstein
Monsieur D'Arque: Collin Bell
Silly Girls:
Emily Shackelford
Alyssa Schechter
Meagan Rossin
Gaston's Cronies:
Phillip Bowen
Antonio McConville
Daniel Souza
Enchantress: Rachel Foodman
Bookseller: Collin Bell
Baker: Jesse Gonzalez
Cream: Piper Davis
Sugar: Tess Mengel
Rug: Rachel Foodman
Prince: Antonio McConville
Townspeople and Enchanted Objects:
Sasha Altschuler
Mikhaela Beaudet-DeBus
Meryn Beckett
Collin Bell
Jackee Bianchi
Phillip Bowen
Alice Cash
Daryl Daley
Piper Davis
Robert Dowling
Gabriela Espinal
Ted Fantano
Rachel Foodman
Jesse Gonzalez
Philip Greenberg
Alejandra Jimenez
Trevor Johnson
April Kaneaster
Cailene Kilcoyne
Tyler Knell
Elizabeth Kreutz
Antonio McConville
Tess Mengel
Ashley Moore
Jessica Petrella
Meagan Rossin
Alyssa Schechter
Emily Shackelford
Daniel Souza
Josef Tellez

Director: Michael Anthony
Music Director: Tim McKnight
Co-Choreographer: Donna Cory
Set Design: Chris Rynne
Lighting Design: Ginger Harris
Costume Design: Mibs Somerville
Sound Design: Alan Edwards


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