By Bob Evans
Disney’s first animated feature to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture proved to be the first Disney animated feature to jump from cartoon to live Broadway show, as “Beauty and the Beast” set more firsts for the cartoon king.
Theatre in the Park’s co-production with The J, again turned out stellar and majestic. Previous shows set a high bar for director Steven Eubank to meet. He did. His sense of casting led to a powerful cast of actors/dancers/singers to bring the Disney classic to the outdoor amphitheater in Shawnee Mission Park.
Not only are ticket prices low, but free parking and the invitation to bring lawn chairs, beverages, snacks, and picnics makes this the most family-friendly venue in the city. Theatre in the park is spacious, well manicured, clean, and accessible to all.
Standout performers were Paris Naster as Belle, Scott Fagan as Beast, Matt Messing as Gaston, Clin Rohach as Lefou, Dalton Homolka as Lumier. Other strong supporting players are Curt Knupp as Maurice, Madaline Clem as Babette, and Wendy Musick as Mrs. Potts.
Most of the vocal performances ring as some of Kansas City’s best singing voices. The acting was powerful and the dance/choreography added sparkle and pizzazz. The production scores on all levels. Sound, lighting, costumes, choreography, set, scene changes, props–all add sparkle to the show. The show-stopping numbers loom larger than life, and the “Be Our Guest” number stands as probably the most spectacular in last five years at Theatre in the Park…maybe ever.
Pay special attention to the splendid, colorful costumes. They look rich and sumptuous in every scene. The only part that did not ring true was Belle’s final dress. It looked orange, not golden yellow. The color appear more like an orange sherbet color than yellow. Not a big deal, just a shock to make sure the audience remained awake.
Belle: Paris Naster
Beast: Scott Fagan
Maurice: Curt Knupp
Gaston: Matt Messing
Lefou: Colin Rohach
Cogsworth/Villager: Austin Shively
Lumier/Candleman: Dalton Homolka
Babette/Milkmaid: Madaline Clem
Mrs. Potts/Lady with baby: Wendy Musick
Chip/Shepard Boy: Finnegan Jones
Madam/Aristocrat Lady: Whitney Armstrong
Featured Male Ensemble
Gaston’s Crony/Enchanted Object/Bookseller: Brant Stacy
Gaston’s Crony/Enchanted Object/D’Arque/Baker: Tyler Armer
Gaston’s Crony/Enchanted Object/Wolf/Hat Seller: Morgan Ball
Gaston’s Crony/Enchanted Object/Fishman: Sam Wise
Gaston’s Crony/Enchanted Object/Egg Man/Young Prince/Wolfe: Cole Bracen
Featured Female Ensemble
Lady with cane/Enchantress/Wolf/Napkin: McKenna Neef
Sausage Curl Girl/Wolf/Napkin: Anna Murrow
Directed by Steven Eubank
Musical Director/Conductor: Pam Williamson
Choreographer: Mindy Moritz
Costume Designer: Julia Ras
Props Designer: Bill Christie
Scenic Designer: Lisa Haldeman
Lighting Designer: Jayson Chandley
Sound Designer: Josh Koan
Stage Manager: Megan Segers
“Beauty and the Beast” continues at Shawnee Mission’s Theatre in the Park for four more performances. Shows run Wed-Sat at 8:30, weather permitting. Hint: Take a light jacket in case cooling evening temps and breezes can become chill.
Tags: Theatre in the Park, “Beauty and the Beast”, Kansas City Performing Arts, Kansas City Arts & Entertainment, Kansas City Theater