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‘Beauty and the Beast’ at The Puppet Co. by Julia L. Exline

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The Puppet Co. presents Beauty and the Beast, an iconic tale performed in one of its lesser-known original versions, treating the audience with a different perspective in which to view one of their favorite fairy-tale princesses. Allan Stevens directs this beloved production.

Christopher and MayField Piper, and the ‘Beauty and the Beast’ marionettes by Terry Snyder. Photo courtesy of The Puppet Co.

Terry Snyder designs a deceptively simple set: a trio of purple doors, each standing on a different level of purple velvet. A golden rose is painted above the center doorway, which opens to reveal a media screen that is utilized in various scenes, particularly involving the masked Magic Mirror, voiced by Eric Brooks. The other doors unfold to reveal painted sets, such as a simple cottage and the interior of an elaborate castle. Snyder is also responsible for designing the lovingly detailed puppets for this production, and Dan Brooks does a fine job with the Lighting Design.

Performers Christopher and Mayfield Piper, dressed in crushed velvet to match the set, welcomes the children to the theater, most of whom came dressed in their festive Halloween costumes. They chat and joke with the children for a little bit before bringing out the beautiful marionettes, and begin the story.

This version includes three sisters: Beauty, Pride, and Vanity. Beauty has a gentle face with wide, kind eyes, and is dressed in simple clothes, while her sisters don tiaras and have mean, pinched faces. Their father, a merchant, leaves for a voyage, asking each of his daughters what they wish for him to bring back to them. Pride and Vanity greedily (and hilariously) sing about French perfume, while Beauty just wishes for his safe return, and perhaps if he can find one, a rose. He finds one while seeking refuge from a snowstorm in a strange castle, but when he plucks it, he is confronted by an intimidating beast, with high horns and a sweeping red cape. Angry, he demands that the merchant’s daughter come to the castle to live as payment for her father’s thievery.

Once there, Beauty’s fear of the Beast diminishes a little day by day, until she no longer fears him, and learns of a spell that has been cast upon him. Is it possible that she could even love him? When she learns that her father has grown ill, she pleads with the Beast to let her visit him. He consents, but warns her that he will die if she does not return within a week. Once home, her sisters are jealous of her new castle lifestyle, and decide to thwart her return. Can Beauty get back to the Beast in time?

This production has no dancing teapots, clocks, or candlesticks, which is what I absolutely love about it. Disney versions of beloved fairy tales are nice, but they often become the only version of these tales that children are exposed to. The Puppet Co. broadens children’s horizons as far as their favorite tales are concerned, showing them in a new angle, a new light (which is ironic, because in reality they are much older than the Disney versions).

For a refreshing afternoon of affordable fun with your child, visit The Puppet Co. for a showing of Beauty and the Beast!

Running Time: 40 minutes without an intermission.

Beauty and the Beast runs through November 16, 2012 at The Puppet Co. – in Glen Echo Park – 7300 MacArthur Boulevard, in Glen Echo, MD. For tickets, call (301) 634-5380, or order them online.

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One Response to ‘Beauty and the Beast’ at The Puppet Co. by Julia L. Exline

  1. Ed Kelty October 25, 2012 at 10:56 am #

    The grand-girls loved it. The production was impressive with the manipulative skills of the Pipers, and the media screen behind the sets. However, I did not fully get the projected face on the screen, did not know what happened to the stolen ring, and didn’t follow the magic whereby the beast turned into a prince. Guess you had to take it on faith — which the girls certainly did.