Baltimore’s Charm City Players are back with their latest child-friendly production: Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. With music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice and book by Linda Woolverton, the Charm City Players production contains the story and songs loved by millions.
Directed by Stephen Napp, the large ensemble cast is led by a talented group of players. Emily L. Taylor shines as Belle. She is smart and feisty in the “Belle” reprise, she conveys natural sorrow when trapped in the castle in the song “Home” and her voice filled the large auditorium as she belted the anthem to self-discovery “A Change in Me” near the end of the show.
It was a shame we had to wait until nearly the end of Act I to hear E. Lee Nicol sing as the Beast. His Beast was angry and brooding but it wasn’t until he sang “How Long Must This Go On” and the Act I finale “If I Can’t Love Her” that we learned he was also a very talented singer. The scenes between Belle and the Beast in Act II, as they are learning to care for each other, were played with great humor and tenderness by Nicol and Taylor.
Gaston (Dean Allen Davis) is appropriately brutish in his wooing of Belle in what has to be the world’s most insulting marriage proposal in the song “Me” and comical as the arrogant center of attention in “Gaston.”
My daughters’ favorite character was Lumiere (J. Purnell Hargrove) who elicited many laughs and was especially funny in the song “Be Our Guest.” I greatly enjoyed the recurring performances of the three “silly girls” (Alex Clasing, Lauren DeSha, and Kimberly Hart) who spend much time fawning over Gaston.
I was silently cheering for Maggie Falnigan when she sang the central “Beauty and the Beast” song, which she performed with tenderness and sincerity. Christina Napp gave a lively and energized performance as the voluptuous Babet, and John Andrew as Monsieur D’Arque was, as his name suggests, really dark and creepy in “Maison de Lunes.”
Choreographer Jason M. Kimmell made use of the extremely large ensemble cast by choreographing small vignettes for groups of characters to perform throughout the show. This was most notable in the song “Gaston” which featured several villagers engaged in an elaborate dance that involved clinking pewter mugs, and the big showstopper number “Be Our Guest” that featured some adorable children dressed as dancing spoons.
The set, designed by Annmarie Pallanck, mainly consists of the Beast’s castle, which cleverly incorporates two sets of stairs that create the illusion of a much more ornate space. In addition, Belle’s cottage is cozy and quaint. There were also some fun props that are sure to grab kids’ attention, such as the Beast’s sparkly enchanted mirror and Belle’s father’s (Maurice played by Dave Guy) invention which had a sci-fi blinking light look to it.
Sandra Boldman did a great job costuming the large cast. The towns people’s colorful costumes helped evoke the feeling of a bustling village and Belle’s iconic yellow dress was a big crowd pleaser with the children (many of whom were wearing the same yellow dress!). The enchanted objects were believable candlesticks, teapots and clocks, and Chip (a talented Logan T. Dubel) was adorable as a life-sized rotating tea cup.
The theater space at Mercy High School is large, beautiful, and new. Patrons can enjoy free face painting, pre-show arts and crafts, and post-show photo opportunities with the cast.
Want to turn the show into a whole day out with your kids? The Charm City Players offer an optional pre-show royal tea party with Princess Belle and her “Enchanted Friends.” The cost of the tea party is $30 and it includes light fare, premium seating, parking, and more.
So grab your kids, put them in their best princess dress or knight costume, and enjoy a fun day of children’s theater with Charm City Players’ entertaining Beauty and the Beast.
Running Time: Two and a half hours, including one 15-minute intermission.
Disney’s Beauty and the Beast plays through November 27, 2016 at The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Auditorium at Mercy High School – 1300 East Northern Parkway, in Baltimore, MD. Tickets can be purchased at the door or online.