by Beki Pineda

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST – Music by Alan Menken; Lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice; Book by Linda Woolverton; Directed by Alicia K. Meyers and Matthew D. Peters. Produced by BDT Stage (5501 Arapahoe, Boulder) through September 21. Tickets available at 303-449-6000 or bdtstage.com.

BDT has pulled out all the stops for their family summer musical this year by mounting yet another Disney production, following on the heels of the success of LITTLE MERMAID last summer. To build on that success, they also wisely brought back Lillian Buonocore in her second appearance as a Disney princess. She brings the same crystal clear soprano and unaffected acting gifts to the role of Belle as she did last year with Ariel. She is paired once again with Cole LaFonte as her Beast as he was her Prince Eric last summer. Cole found both the anger of the Beast and the agony of the man within. Their mutual but separate loneliness inspired the Beast’s lament “If I Can’t Love Her” and Belle’s poignant “Is This Home?” that changes to the hopeful realization that there’s been “A Change in Me” when they discover the transformational wonder of love.

The cast is peppered with old favorites returning for yet another turn at BDT and talented newcomers making their debuts at this Boulder landmark. Scott Severtson is a truly ridiculous Gaston who only turns mean when humiliated. His toady Le Fou is the simpering Leo Batlle. Together they make a two man fan club for you-know-who. It is always lovely to see Wayne Kennedy back on stage, this time as Belle’s father, Maurice with his clever wood chopping machine. The half human/half furniture pieces are led by Bob Hoppe as the optimistic candelabra Lumiere and the timely Cogsworth Scott Beyette. Tracy Warren is a luminous Mrs. Potts with the part of Chip being shared by three young actors. Ali Meyers as Madame de la Grande Bouche, an opera singing wardrobe and Danielle Scheib as the French speaking feather duster Babette complete the complement of household goods.

BDT also demonstrated its ability to enter into the 21st century in terms of theatre technology with this production. While they have dipped their collective toes into the wonderful world of projections in past productions, they have jumped into the pond wholeheartedly with this show. Versatile projections designed by Tom Quinn pop up to enhance the scenic design by resident designer Amy Campion. Forests appear on stage; a snow storm rages; a village materializes magically; a library opens up; a shower of stars celebrates the arrival of joy. The projections add greatly to this spectacular production.

But that’s not the only thing that raises the WOW factor on this family favorite; They also went all out on the living “furniture” costumes including the most inventive Madame de la Grande Bouche (wardrobe) costume I’ve seen. Cogsworth with his working clock parts comes in a close second. Add in Lumiere with his hands that are glowing candles for a fun touch.  he costumes by resident designer Linda Morken are always authentic, creative and supportive for the production. B&B, however, provides special problems for any costume crew which Linda and her seamstresses have solved beautifully. I especially liked Gaston’s faux muscles.

The choreography by co-directors and choreographers Alicia Meyers and Matt Peters is especially inventive and original. As this production has been done all over the Front Range, it would be easy to just copy previous choreography and build on it. But – no! – these two start from scratch and build a whole new re-imagined show with sparkling dance numbers and catchy routines. You’ve not seen the glories of “Gaston” until you’ve seen the whole crew climbing on the furniture, bouncing off the walls, and clinking tankards in this wildly raucous routine. It reminded me of a long ago “slap and clap” routine some of these same dancers did in a BDT production of WILL ROGERS FOLLIES. The always delightful “Be Our Guest” number blew the top off Act One. The chase scene as the Villagers invade the Beast’s castle is like a classic silent movie sequence. Congrats to Ali and Matt for instilling their best creative instincts into this production.

Because it is their summer show (this plays till September), you have months to find an evening to share this delightful production with the small theatre-goers you are raising. Come on down!! You won’t be disappointed!!

A WOW factor of 9.5!!