Nancy Sasso Janis
- OnStage Connecticut Critic
‘Disney’s Beauty and the Beast’ opened at Blessed Sacrament Children’s Theatre on Thursday to a packed audience. The Prince Cast was given the honor of doing the first performance and will alternate with the Beast Cast for the six scheduled performance. Opening night was not without a few minor glitches, all of which the young performers handled like the pros they are.
The venerable director Bob Tansley reminded the audience in his announcements to keep the aisles clear throughout the performance so that the actors could move through them easily. Most parents complied and it was such a treat to enjoy the performances and costumes of the youngest cast members as they passed through the aisles. Mr. T also reminded the audience to turn on the 80+ light-up roses that had been sold outside the venue to help the magic happen in the second act.
Mr. Tansley also dedicated all of the performances to Blessed Sacrament pastor Rev. Jeremiah Murasso, who is being transferred to another parish very soon. Fr. Murasso enjoyed the opening performance from a front row seat and congratulated the students during the intermission. The priest’s unwavering support of this theatrical program will long be remembered.
Since I have already posted my review of the final dress rehearsal of the Beast cast, I will limit my remarks to the performances of the members of the Prince Cast, with just a few notes on the work of the leads that I had already seen on Wednesday.
The Prince Cast did an amazing job with their leading roles. The Silly Girls in their rainbow skirts were played well by Frances DiModungo, Ariel Giglio, Ariel Pierre and one other uncredited young lady. Dual cast member Christian Welcome looked much scarier as Monsieur D’Arque in his full makeup. Taylor Kunkel played Chip with an adorable smile in a role for which she was only able to use her head until the final scene; Logan Altenburger will perform the role for two other of the performances.
The very talented Claire Roberts took on the role of Madame Bouche; Ms. Roberts played Mrs. Mayor in ‘Seussical’ as well. Alexandra Jannetty was the lovely maid named Babette. The wonderful Grace Altenburger was just adorable and very funny as Gaston’s stepped upon sidekick, LeFou.
Matthew Keating was strong in the role of Lumiere, the enchanted candelabra and Michael Meier brought lots of spunk and intelligence to the role of Cogsworth, the enchanted clock. Julia Mehlin was the loving Mrs. Potts and sang beautifully on her iconic solo “Beauty and the Beast.”
Kennedy Morris, who traveled all the way from the town of Morris to play the role, was a truly beautiful Beauty. Of course this talented vocalist sang every note with assurance as I knew she would, but her acting and dancing were just as impressive.
Ronald McNerney played the handsome prince before and after the spell changed him into a beast as well as a wolf. Kudos to Theo Sevilla (Maurice) who managed to push his large invention on wheels around the auditorium when it was full of audience members without incident. Jordan Elliott did fine work in the character arc required for Beast and I felt that he deserved more credit during the curtain call. Travis Karas was a fabulous Gaston and proved his improv skills when he missed a musical cue and Musical Director Keith Wilson played along.
The ensemble in the Prince Cast looked great as enchanted utensils and the like in “Be Our Guest” and some older students also did well as townspeople. One crew member dad sat in front of me on the bleachers to operate his confetti cannon for the “Be Our Guest” finale and the
Many alumni parents and grandparents stepped up to do “whatever you need” and were acknowledged in the program. In addition, John O’Donnell served as the show’s producer while CJ McNellis and Justin Sanzari did crowd control as production stage managers. The show manager was Melissa Kunkel, while Colleen Altenburger served as grant writer and produced the audience loved watching the pieces fall gently over them. comprehensive program book with Mr. Tansley covering the production pages in the program. Anne Calabro was the assistant to costume designer Debbie Forchelli. Credit to Elaine Woodruff for constructing Belle’s ball gown and Sister Patricia McCarthy from the Congregation of Notre Dame for two Belle dresses.
The orchestra under the direction of Mr. Wilson was acknowledged before the show began and their playing sounded as Disney-like as any I’ve ever heard on Disney property.
I highly recommend a trip to Blessed Sacrament School in Waterbury to catch a performance of what will probably be the final production of this magnitude at this Catholic school. The show ran just a little over three hours with the longish intermission, so a matinee would work well for the very young patron. Limited tickets are available for the five remaining performance. Popcorn, pretzels and candy are sold before the show and during the intermission and the winning raffle tickets for gift baskets are pulled during the intermission.
Photo of Ronald McNerney as the Prince and Kennedy Morris as Belle by Traci Elliot