Friday, May 4, 2012

REVIEW: Evergreen High School's "Beauty and the Beast" is Both

“The magic of Disney has always been captivating to me,” writes Evergreen High School drama teacher and director Stephanie Kerns McCrea, “I have wanted to direct this show for many years…”

A word to the director:

Just because you want to do something doesn’t mean you should.

Those who know me understand that I relate quite well to McCrea’s sentiments about Disney. So, I see a little Disney theater from time to time—real Disney theater (I've seen the professional tour of "Beauty and the Beast" twice, the world premiere of "Aladdin," "Lion King" at the Pantages in L.A. and on tour twice as well as multiple shows repeatedly in the Disney parks). Well, I’m going to stick with the genuine article from here on out.

I’m just not going to see amateurs mess with their material again. I’m sure it makes Disney some good money, but I think they made a mistake licensing their shows to others—it cheapens their brand.

Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” is a wonderfully written musical. It can be a glorious theatrical experience, but it must be done with…magic. This production lacked that. It was a step up from the Metropolitan junior production I saw last month, but still came up quite short.

Not that the show was bad for a high school production. It was just too big of an undertaking. I think another, smaller scale musical might have been a better choice; because the performing talent, I believe, was there.

This production was like a bookshelf on which are some great books held in place by two homely book ends—deep and wonderful in the middle with a beginning and end that lacked sparkle and energy.

The Beautiful

There were some truly decent performances. I don’t think a single line was dropped. I believe every performer gave 100% (and I know the stage crew was working hard, too). There were many good actors/actresses. There were a handful of really good singers. However, rarely did the two reside in the same body.

As Belle, Victoria Hardy was simply de toutes les manières remarquables. She could sing, she could dance (after all girl, this is France), she could act, she had the perfect voice and she was a true belle. Even her line delivery was like listening to the DVD (which I’m sure she did).

Lucas Schneider—a third-grader from Fircrest Elementary—was simply delightful as Chip. Morgan Tache, as Babette, was funny, flirty and fabulous (also a nice accent).

James Taylor did a good job with the role of The Beast and, though not as strong a singer as his namesake, he handled the soaring range of If I Can’t Love Her with control and great emotion. I was moved.

Shadan Leggett (Lumiere) was, perhaps, the shows strongest actor. His singing was fine, but not exceptional. He maintained his accent well and seemed to really, ah, shine.

Paige Child (Mrs. Potts) has a beautiful voice and poured out the title song quite well, but she wasn’t a particularly strong actor.

Quinn Carahan (Gaston) fit the role in voice and physique. His singing voice was equally strong, but he was difficult to understand while singing (due to diction).

The choreography was generally well done, but the ballroom scene was certainly the highlight of them all; it was a truly beautifully executed. What surprised me was that the traditional “show stopper” number Be Our Guest was surpassed by the dance to Gaston.

I’d compliment the costumes, but they were borrowed. Several intelligent lighting fixtures were used to good effect in the production.

The Beastly

Most of the sets were well done—especially the library—but cumbersome. I’m sure that a good quarter of my viewing time was taken up by set changes. I don’t like that, and who does?

The show was haunted by some other familiar technical ghosts. There were wireless mic troubles. [You know, this doesn’t have to be an issue.] Much of the lighting design had a rich and beautiful palette, but was inadequate; it did not properly light faces for registration—especially needed during solos.

A live orchestra can be a delight, but it must be well balanced and not overpower the singers and it must be tight and with every player in tune. Otherwise it is a distraction. This orchestra's balance was good and they pretty much stayed together, but there were many notes that strayed from the written—mostly from the brass section (especially a trumpet).

And overall the illusions, by Rob Lake Theatrical, just didn’t cut it…at all. There was absolutely no magic in them. A lot of fog and a lot of waiting, yes, but how does that seem like magic?

The show continues May 4, 5, 11 and 12; 7:00 p.m. curtain; matinee, May 12th 2 p.m. curtain at Evergreen High School Auditorium, 14300 NE 18th Street, Vancouver, Wash. Tickets, adults $10, students and honored citizens $7, can be only purchased on the date of the show at the Evergreen High School Auditorium Ticket Booth starting at 5:30pm.

Visit for more information.

This curtain warmer shot was the only photo we could snap before being
tersely told not to take pictures. There was no notice in the program and the
the pre-show announcement only forbade flash photography. Sorry.
NOTE: I would have loved to have provided you with a slide show of these students, but we were told not to take any photographs during the production.

By Gregory E. Zschomler

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