Not every show has a fairy tale ending, yet this one did. Not only did the Beast find his Beauty, at the Friday May 6 performance of Beauty and the Beast at South County Secondary School, but senior Gabe Padilla found his prom-date.
When star Angie Vergel de Dios, who played Belle, stepped out to take her bows, she saw Padilla holding signs reading: ANGIE PROM. It was a magical real-life ending to a sweet fairy-tale.
The “tale as old as time,” Beauty and the Beast, has already undergone a magical-realistic transformation. Even if you have only seen the Disney animated film, you may find yourself enchanted by the actors’ ability to capture the emotion of the characters.
For instance when Belle strolled through town with her nose in a book, she received mean girl gawks, eye-rolls and ‘LOLs” from a gaggle of good-looking girls in medieval dresses.
In later scenes you might find yourself sympathizing with the likes of a candlestick played by Brennan Bridger or a teapot played by Kathyrn Blair, who provided a more human face to the servants’ magical enslavement, than their cartoon counterparts.
These realistic aspects, which could not be captured on the drawing board, made South County’s musical a more visceral experience.
South County’s interpretation is also more musical than the 1991 film, in that it includes more songs and especially more dancing.
The original songs were still crowd-pleasers. They were also the only songs in the show that brought out the entire cast for lively dance routines.
The song, “Gaston,” in particular was a real treat. It took place in a tavern just after Belle has rejected Gaston. To re-boost his incredibly large ego, Gaston’s sidekick, Le Fou, leads the tavern in an ode to Gaston’s incredible looks, muscles and sex appeal.
The number included the young men and women of the tavern dancing and clanging together their beer pints. It’s a song that was humorous in the film, but was made much better by the inclusion of the chorus.
“Be Our Guest” was another great dance number, where the audience met more of the kitchen staff, including dancing napkins and a chorus line of forks and spoons. The arrangement was superb as it built upon itself with more layers of surprise appearances and delightful dance moves.
Kudos need to go out to Philip Lee Clark for choreographing those outstanding routines.
However, the other songs, the ones not from the movie, seemed lacking in energy. While they might be dramatically necessary, taking the place of monologues, they just were not as entertaining as the others, but overall the play was very enjoyable.
Beauty and the Beast was successful in large part because South County Director Kathie McCormally made excellent casting choices, especially selecting Angie Vergel de Dios as Belle.
Vergel de Dios brought innocence to the part of Belle, which was evident in her calm, peaceful demeanor and tiny stature. This was a good choice, since Belle started out as a girl with big dreams, but was transformed into a woman by the end of the story, not by magic, but by love. The role also gave Vergel de Dios a chance to display her beautiful soprano singing voice.
Gaston, played by senior Nikko Custodio had the best voice by far, not jut for singing, but also for line delivery. When Custodio comes out on stage in his bright red hunting costume, he looked a little scrawny for the part—until he opened his mouth.
His booming baritone helped the audience understand why Gaston is the Justin Beiber of his small French village.
Likewise, senior Brennan Bridger shined in the comedic character role of Lumiere, the candlestick. His accent was tremendous as was his chemistry with feisty Babette, played by Kathryn Moore.
Junior Kathyrn Blair also warmed hearts as the motherly, Mrs. Potts, while freshman Victoria Dravis was adorable as her son Chip.
As these characters were so well developed on stage, they created the necessity for Belle to break the spell, and return them to their normal existence.
The Beast, however was too often lurking in the shadows, and difficult to decipher. Efi Valle did a good job of emoting between uncontrolled anger and love for Belle, but it seems more like desperation to be saved than love.
This was more a problem with the writing of the plot, or the fairy-tale genre in general, which has the young girl go way too quickly into her enemy’s arms, perhaps, for our modern day sensibilities.
Some aspects of a musical you know are best when you do not think about them at all. In Beauty and the Beast, these included the seamless progression of sets and props, orchestra, lightening, and sound.
This is a testament to Dr. Robert Newell, music director; Sarah Lancaster, conductor; Kathie McCormally, tech director, and all the others who helped make the play a success.
The orchestra was also top-notch, so much so that it was easy to forget they are high school students.
Beauty and the Beast will be performed again at South County Secondary School on Friday and Saturday at 7:30 pm in auditorium.
On Saturday night Chelsea Smith plays Belle, Dean Maldonato plays the Beast and Gaston is played by Yusuf Alizo.
Beauty and the Beast features music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice, and is based on the book by Linda Woolverton.
Tickets are $10 and refreshments range from $.50 to $ 2.00.