Review: ‘Beauty and the Beast’ at Riverside Center for the Performing Arts

Riverside Center for the Performing Arts presents Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, with music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Howard Ashman and Time Rice, and book by Linda Woolverton.

The Cast of Beauty and the Beast. Photo courtesy of Riverside Center for the Performing Arts
The Cast of Beauty and the Beast. Photo courtesy of Riverside Center for the Performing Arts

A beloved classic, Beauty and the Beast is a popular choice amongst audiences. When a show’s high status is paired with Riverside’s well-earned reputation for providing Broadway-quality performances for the NOVA region, the result is a packed auditorium. I wasn’t at all surprised to see so many people at my performance (or lots of little girls in sparkly yellow ball gowns), nor was I surprised when that performance received an enthusiastic standing ovation at curtain call.

This show is known for its luxury, and the technical crew delivered! The set, designed by JD Madsen, is lavishly decorated and beautifully detailed, be it a bustling, charming town square or a stately yet neglected Baroque castle. Sound Designer George Ligon and Lighting Designer Mike Jarett work seamlessly with the musicians to pull you into the atmosphere, whether the tone is moody and mysterious, or bright and cheerful. Music Director Leigh Delano conducts an off-stage live orchestra, and their talents are so potent and skillful that you forget you’re listening to live music and not a recording.

Nicki Elledge as Belle and Wyn Delano as Beast. Photo courtesy of Riverside Center for the Performing Arts
Nicki Elledge as Belle and Wyn Delano as Beast. Photo courtesy of Riverside Center for the Performing Arts

There is an arrangement of new songs included in the set list, most noticeably “If I Can’t Love Her,” a poignant number sung by the Beast that gives his character a bit more depth. However, it was the classic movie favorites that were the most enjoyed. These tended to be large, energetic ensemble numbers with creative choreography by Stephanie Wood. While one’s mind wouldn’t seem to pair ballet moves with angry wolves, the attacks are performed with poise and verve. I also loved the inventive use of beer steins in the rousing number “Gaston.” “Be Our Guest” will have your eyes feverishly sweeping the stage while trying to take in all the action. Mrs. Pott’s (Sherri L. Edelen) lovely rendition of “Beauty and the Beast” is a perfect, well-rounded resolution that may leave you teary-eyed.

The cast works well together, especially since the chemistry comes mostly in pairs. RJ Pavel and Alan Hoffman get a lot of laughs as Lumiere and Cogsworth, the unofficial hosts who can’t seem to agree on anything. Kevin Cleary is a formidable figure as Gaston, a burly brute who can’t seem to move an inch without injuring his sidekick Lefou, played by Zachary Bullock. Bullock’s silly, frenzied performance made him an instant audience favorite, especially with the children. Finally, the grand pairing of Belle and the Beast are in strong, capable hands with Nicki Elledge and Wyn Delano. Both display beautiful vocal ranges in their musical numbers as their relationship develops. Belle’s brave, spirited personality complements the Beast’s tortured haughtiness…sometimes a little too much, shown in playful scenes where the two strong, stubborn characters bicker back and forth like an old married couple. When willful, passionate people fall in love, the connection is majestic, and one to be fought for.

Running Time: Two hours and 30 minutes, including one 20-minute intermission.

Riverside Center for the Performing Art’s Beauty and the Beast is a winner for all ages and the perfect family experience. Full of catchy, celebrated music, energetic dance numbers, and striking performances, this show is a can’t miss. Grab some tickets while you can!

Beauty and the Beast plays through November 25, 2018 at Riverside Center for the Performing Arts – 95 Riverside Parkway, in Fredericksburg, VA. For tickets, call 540.370.4300, or purchase them online.