Review: ‘Top-notch’ costumes, actors in Kearney Community Theatre’s ‘Beauty and the Beast’


Beauty and the Beast

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Lumiere (Josh Lillyman), left, and Cogsworth (Brian Jenkins) discuss an intruder who has found his way into the castle of The Beast in Kearney Community Theatre’s production of “Beauty and the Beast.” The show, filled with myth and magic, opens today and continues through Aug. 1.

KEARNEY — “Beauty and the Beast” starts with one foot planted firmly in the world of allegory/myth and the other foot in the world of Disney effects.

The musical begins the same way so many fairy tales start — with enough exposition so the audience understands the backstory and we can leap, with both feet, into the fun of this fantastical tale. From the opening lines, spoken by a disembodied narrator, we know the evening will include magic, spells, humor, silliness — and love. Cloaked in myth, the ultimate journey of “Beauty and the Beast” speaks of reconciliation, humility and acceptance.

And as with most fairy tales, the journey speaks louder than the destination.

Kearney Community Theatre presents “Beauty and the Beast,” based on the Disney movie, with music by Alan Menkin, lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice, and book by Linda Woolverton, opening today and continuing through Aug. 1. Tickets for the musical are $16-$20.

Director Judy Rozema has created a world where a shy woman, Belle, begins to understand how she stands out from the others in the ordinary village. Her personality clashes, in a gentle way, with the other young women of the village.

Rick Brown - Yard Light Media

Rick Brown

The Beast, living in a world of fantasy and magic, clashes with everyone in a confrontational way. These two individuals approach life from different directions, contrasting their personalities.

The director ignites that contrast to create a tension that propels the story.

Look for an outstanding performance by Maleah Wright as Belle. She knows how to command her space on stage, how to yield to others in ensembles and how to share the magic in duets. As The Beast, Ryan Wuellner employs a range of emotions as his character grows throughout the musical.

David Rozema, as Belle’s father, adds a dash of zany humor to the show — and a sense of grounding to The Beauty.

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Also watch for a strong performance by Henry Stelling as Gaston. Watch him work his magic as the pompous town playboy gives the show a predictable — and playful — quality. Also Dashiell Alexander as LeFou and Jacob Sykes as Monsieur D’arque help balance the arrogance of Gaston with their antics.

A word must be added at this point about the costumes: Top-notch.

For audiences who know the story, Cogsworth, a clock played by Brian Jenkins, stands guard in the castle of The Beast along with Lumiere, a candelabra played by Josh Lillyman. They are a joy to watch and their fine costumes help define their characters.

A trio of wolves, played by Isabelle Kathol, Jordan Kitzelman and Laura Rozema in canine masks, silently confront Maurice, Belle’s father, in the forest. As with most fairy tales, the wolves represent something menacing and dangerous.

Another trio, Elizabeth Drews, Lucy Haarmann and Layla Rivera, portrays three silly girls who fawn over Gaston. Their over-the-top performance adds a delightful touch of humor to a production that sometimes feels dark and foreboding. Mrs. Potts (Katie Ridder) and Chip (Harriet Rodgers) glide around the stage as a child turned into a fantastical cup of tea.

All of the performers inhabit the stage with ease and purpose in this musical. The choreography serves the music and it feels comfortable and enjoyable to watch, something that draws in the audience to make “Beauty and The Beast” more inviting.

The quick set changes, involving complex settings, keep the pace of the show brisk. The outstanding set alternates between the castle and the town with ease, giving audience members a feeling that the magic of this musical lies barely below the surface. Anything could happen.

The theater invested in new wireless microphones. The crystal-clear sound system allows audience members to hear everything with new clarity and definition; no more dropouts or crackling as the performers move across the stage.

And move they do.

Part of the joy of watching “Beauty and The Beast” comes from how all the elements of this production line up so effortlessly. Granted, some of the characters lack depth and most everyone knows the arc of the story, but the real pleasure in watching the musical come from the magic that all the performers and crew sprinkle throughout the story.

Certain elements of the show might be frightening to the youngest audience members because live theater feels more realistic than film or video, but for children — and adults — who want to be enthralled with the power of this story, Kearney Community Theater’s production lands on its feet for a solid, enjoyable and meaningful experience.

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