Fauquier Community Theatre’s Youth Program tackles a “tale as old as time” with Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, JR. The five-star cast of 60+ kindergarteners through high school seniors all give excellent performances, sure to put a smile on the face of any audience member. With Music by Alan Menken (a Tony Award nominee for the original score of Beauty and the Beast in 1994), Lyrics by Howard Ashman & Tim Rice, and a book by Linda Woolverton, Beauty and The Beast JR. presents music that would challenge even seasoned singers. Kudos to the cast, and Musical Director Evelyn Rice for producing such dulcet sounds throughout.
A few cast members, especially, deserve to be spotlighted: Isaac Ballinger, the cocky Gaston, is delightfully full of himself (especially in his performance of “Gaston”), and is always a treat to have on stage. Grace Fisher, Belle (and only a High School Freshman, believe it or not), has an angelic voice, and possesses a refreshing element of realism, especially in her rendition of “Home.’ Belle’s father, Maurice, played by Joshua Vest, is an audience-favorite. Somewhere between his teased white hair, crazy inventions, and wide-eyed bewilderment, Vest finds a loveable eccentricity that turns Maurice not only into a hilarious character, but one the audience can relate to. The “flatware” ensemble is simply adorable, and Burke Romans-Murrary clearly has an excellent time finding the quirks in portraying Lumiere, everyone’s favorite talking candelabra, especially during “Be Our Guest,” Daniel O’Hara, performed the role of The Beast well at this performance.
The designs (not credited in the program) were effective, albeit tame. The choreography by Alanna Mensing was lacking, and, especially in smaller numbers, much too simplistic for the talented cast.
The fight choreography by Emmett Bales, however, was worrisome. Whenever there was any “stage combat,” the young Actors would not stick to the tried and true principle that “the victim is in control.” Rather, the aggressor would actually use force on another actor, with very little “choreography” needed. Other instances of concern included the opening scene in the village, where every single cast member was crowded above the apron, leaving many to push and shove amongst each other to complete blocking. In fact one actor ran into a wall trying to exit the crowded stage. Another, the “Mob Song,” saw some young actors running full force off stage and into the house. I hope Mr. Bales teaches his cast proper fight choreography before next weekend’s run, and that the directors, Ms. Rice and her counterparts, re-block these scenes.
The best reason to come and see Beauty and The Beast, JR is the talented young cast who are funny, sing the popular score very well, and bring a lot of energy and joy to their performances.