Review: Shenandoah Summer Music Theatre's Beauty and the Beast
Beauty and the Beast, as many know, has been a story for centuries, going back to the 1700's. The tale found universal fame, however, after Disney mounted an animated production in 1991, becoming an instant classic. The film was then converted into a Broadway Musical, opening in 1994 and closing in 2007; making it the 10th longest running show in Broadway's history. While staged productions of Beauty and the Beast have been mounted relatively frequently over the years, lately there has been a mass increase due to the 2017 live action remake, also by Disney. This version has Music by Alan Menken, Lyrics by Tim Rice & Howard Ashman, and Book by Linda Woolverton.
While I'm fairly certain we all know the basic plot of the show, I will give a brief description. A young woman, Belle, feels alone in her small town, as she cares more for the artistic parts of life than others around her. She finds comfort only in her books and her aging father, an inventor who often travels. While out traveling, the father winds up getting lost and stumbles upon a cursed castle, where humans have been turned into objects. While there he is found by the Beast and jailed for trespassing, until Belle attempts to rescue him, only to realize she must take his place in order to save him. From there Belle learns of the Castles curse and the audience learns the Beast must learn to love Belle, and have Belle love him in return in order to reverse the curse and save all those affected.
With all that in mind, let's get to the fun stuff, Shenandoah's production. This production is directed by Kevin Covert, with Musical Direction by Karen Keating and Choreography by Robin Higginbotham. Isaac Miller took on the titular Beast and did a solid job, really building to his big number at the end of Act I. Isaac was smaller in stature than other Beast's I've come across, so he had to use other techniques in order to seem truly intimidating, his true best were the more comedic, tender moments of the Beast. Chris Clark gave an admirable performance as Gaston, an unwanted suitor of Belle, making himself a character the audience loved to hate. One of best performances of the show came from Zachary Bigelow as Lumiere, a talking candlestick. Bigelow was loved by the audience, giving them all his energy.
Elizabeth Albert also gave a heartfelt performance as Mrs. Potts, tackling the titular song with perfect vocals and emotion. In addition to the usual Ensemble standouts, there were some new standouts at this production. Specifically, Emma Benson, Jessica Lynch, and Lawrence Hailes. Now as with all my reviews, it's time for the star of the show. This is a rare instance where the star of the show was actually THE star of the show, Beauty herself. Emma Coniglio gave a near flawless performance as Belle, having absolutely beautiful vocals, and giving all her all she had to make us love her character, and we sure did. She also had to fight against some very faulty mics, but more on that later.
Now I've seen easily over dozen shows at Shenandoah and never have I seen such mic troubles from the nearly professional group. That being said, I'm willing to give them the benefit of the doubt and assume there was a genuine problem beyond their control for this performance. One thing I can always count on Shenandoah for is gorgeous sets and this was no exception, this set is incredible. Great job to William Pierson and all others involved with that.
This show has another weekend of sold out shows and with good reason. Coniglio and the set alone would've sold out the run, let alone all the other things it has going for it!