July 22, 2008

Tri-Valley Rep’s ‘Beast’ is a Beauty

By Pat Craig, Contra Costa Times, Walnut Creek, Calif.

Jul. 22--TRI-VALLEY Repertory Theatre will be making a lot of families happy with its charming production of "Disney's Beauty and the Beast," which opened during the weekend in Livermore's new Bankhead Theater.

After seeing the show several times, it is clear to me that the Disney people responsible for "Beauty" not only spent much of their youth in the thrall of classic Broadway musicals, but paid close attention as well.

This may be a "tale as old as time," according to one of the tunes, but it is also a stylish and well-crafted Broadway musical built, one is tempted to say, like a brick playhouse.

The only reason this is worth pointing out is because, although it's certainly a family show, it's not the sort of "family show" that's going to bore the adults silly.

In fact, even if you don't have a little prince or princess in tow, it's a solid musical that has plenty to offer a grown-up audience.

And Tri-Valley Rep (formerly Pleasanton Playhouse) has done an outstanding job making the Valley premiere of "Beauty and the Beast" a memorable experience.

The opening-night performance had a few sound and pacing problems, but as a whole, this was a polished and highly entertaining show, where, due to a curse cast on the prince (who is turned into the Beast), the household objects in the castle come to life. (Actually, I've always been a little confused by this, because it seems like what really happens is members of

the castle staff turn into living household objects -- of course, one lesson you quickly learn from musicals is nothing should be taken too literally or seriously.)

Anyway, the beauty in the title, a lovely girl named Belle (well-played by Lindsay Pearce), lives with her father Maurice (Jay Markwart), an inventor who gets lost in the woods, captured and held prisoner in the Beast's (Kevin Maldarelli) castle.

Belle, plagued by the unwanted attention of chuckleheaded stud muffin Gaston (Brandon Robinson), heads into the woods to search for her father and is captured by the Beast.

The Beast's curse will be removed if he is able to find a woman he loves and who will love him in return. You probably know how the rest goes.

Director Kathleen Breedveld has assembled a terrific cast, with some delightful comic players, particularly Christopher Olson as Lumiere, Nickolas Quintell as Cogsworth and Jennifer Bell-Olson as Mrs. Potts.

Breedveld's co-director and choreographer Shawnel Buitrago-Herbst and co-choreographer Victoria George have created some charmingly memorable production numbers, particularly the "Be Our Guest" extravaganza in the first act.

All in all, "Beauty and the Beast" is a stylish finale to the company's season at the Bankhead Theater.

Reach Pat Craig at [email protected]

Theater review -- what: Tri-Valley Repertory Theatre's "Disney's Beauty and the Beast" -- WHERE: Bankhead Theater, 2400 First St., Livermore -- when: 8 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays through Aug. 10 -- RUNNING TIME: 2 hours, 20 minutes -- tickets: $30; 925-373-6800 or www.livermoreperformingarts.org


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