By Jori Waldron
With the new Beauty and the Beast movie starring Emma Watson scheduled to come out next March, everyone is once again talking about the tale as old as time.
Bright Side Theatre features the musical to kick off its sixth season entitled, “Classic Broadway.” Coming off its “Season of Farce” last year, this fledgling theater will also be performing Moon over Buffalo and Guys and Dolls to round out the classic year.
This up-and-coming group uses North Central College’s Meiley-Swallow Hall to showcase its talent. The thrust stage surrounded by multiple levels of seating gives an intimate feel to the performance while allowing for a clear view for all patrons. The orchestra is housed in a separate room and piped in, which frees up space and keeps the music from becoming too overpowering.
Director Jeffrey Cass makes excellent use of the stage by utilizing ramps, flipping flats and having various set pieces zip on and off throughout the performance. He also incorporates quite a few special effects and surprises, which make this performance unique to others that patrons may have seen.
Choreographer Jeni Donahue also creatively works in fantastic choreography with possibly the hardest working ensemble ever assembled. They tag in and out of dances, link arms and huddle in groups to allow for fascinating routines that enchant the audience. Special standouts are “Be Our Guest,” always an audience favorite, which not only works in kicklines and cartwheels but also has the actors changing costumes during the dance to represent silverware then cups then other objects that came to life. The best dancing, however, is found in “Gaston,” which employs crashing metal cups in ways that would impress Anna Kendrick.
The women all have lovely voices, in particular Belle (Jesek West), and the leading men hold their own, featuring fabulous vocals from the Beast (Jacob Huddilston) and Gaston (Brett Baleskie). Connor Hernandez, who plays LeFou, is due the laughs he receives for taking abuse and somersaulting all over the stage. All of the familiar songs from the Disney movie are here with the addition of more ballads, including the lovely “A Change in Me” and the passionate “If I Can’t Love Her.”
Some of the physical humor is geared more toward children as it clearly is a story meant for them, although with a running time of two and half hours, it might be a bit difficult for very young children to sit through it. Despite its appeal to the young, there is something for everyone to enjoy is this cleverly put together performance that moves seamlessly from one scene to the next.
Bright Side Theatre presents Beauty and the Beast through November 27 at 31 S. Ellsworth St., Naperville. More information and tickets are available online here.