A charming version of the stage adaptation of “Beauty and the Beast” is playing at Maricopa High School this weekend. The dancing-and-springing production by the MHS Theatre Company debuted Thursday at the Performing Arts Center.
Again, the troupe has combined strong performing talent with a remarkable sets and often extraordinary costuming. It’s a fitting sendoff for a handful of senior actors with a talent level rarely united on a high school stage. And it’s all kid-friendly.
The story of a beautiful, well-read young woman offering to exchange places with her errant father and live in a bizarre castle with a beastly, temperamental master is indeed a tale as old as time. With audience members very familiar at least with the animated Disney musical, if not the Broadway version, and in the wake of a highly popular live-action film, the trick was to make this production special.
While Lillian Chitwood had the nerve-wracking task of stepping out of the chorus, so to speak, to play the central character of Belle with a very empathetic touch, much of the first half of the performance has its energy focused on arrogant Gaston, played to the hilt by Jaron Hlebasko. He has the archetypal sidekick in Erick Livingston as Lefou.
The shift to the Beast’s castle is very effective, both in set design and lighting. With Camron Loomis, as Belle’s father, wandering in, we meet the enchanted staff in terrific costumes. Mase as rakish Lumiere the candelabra and Mahkai Ball as fussy Cogsworth the clock are great individually and instantly make an outstanding comic duo. Curtis as kindly housekeeper-turned-teapot Mrs. Potts is trailed by chip the teacup, played sweetly by Adrian Perdomo.
Mase, with an entertaining French accent, gets his showstopper with “Be Our Guest.” Curtis turns in a beautiful solo with the titular song.
Lurking about the castle in high dudgeon, Venegas nails his part as the wrathful Beast trying to change himself into a gentle man. He gets the best of the Broadway-added numbers, “If I Can’t Love Her,” and delivers impeccably. It’s a great counterpoint to Hlebasko’s swaggering bombast.
Brook Perona, the operatically-voiced armoire, and Kjirsten Lemon, the saucy feather duster, are scene-stealers in a crowded cast. For anyone not to be upstaged by the sets and costumes takes a lot of showmanship.
If the complexity of the production caused sleepless nights for director Cynthia Calhoun and technical director Kevin Piquette, the audience reaps the rewards.
The troupe soldiered on through some typical opening-night glitches and yips. Hopefully, those will be settled for the rest of the production.
Other performances are today at 7 p.m. and Saturday at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Tickets are $5 for students and $7 for adults. Kids age 5 and under get in free.