By Tom Titus
Once a year, South Coast Repertory’s Summer Players, the cream of its youth conservatory crop with performers ranging from 10 to 19 years old, earn the chance to strut their stuff on the main stage, and this year they’ve positively nailed the Disney rendition of “Beauty and the Beast.”
Under the inspired direction of Hisa Takakuwa, in her 11th year of operating the youth program, and musical director Erin McNally, the SCR youngsters are offering an excellent production in all respects – including the depiction of “inanimate” objects cursed under the same spell that turned a handsome prince into a grotesque monster.
The centerpiece of the show is its beauty, Katherine Parrish, who plays the gorgeous but bookish Belle. She not only fills the bill physically, she displays an exceptionally beautiful voice which should guarantee her a successful career in musical theater.
The Beast – Kelsey Kato as the thoroughly nasty master of his castle – also impresses, thanks in large measure to the elaborate costume of Sara Ryung Clement, who also designed the superb setting. Kato presents a snarling creature who endeavors to mask a human heart, which is breaking.
His rival for Belle’s affections is the proud, self-aggrandizing Gaston, played to the hilt by Anthony Cervero. Belle’s goofy inventor father offers some deft comedy relief in the performance of Nick Kessler.
The showiest roles, however, are those of the candelabra Lumiere (Christopher Huntley), the officious clock Cogsworth (Jamie Ostmann) and the chatty teapot Mrs. Potts (Rachel Charny), as well as the sensual Babette (Rachel Baiey), the haughty dresser Madame de la Grande Bouche (Kelsey Bray) and Mrs. Potts’ serving bowl son Chip (Jacki Vellandi).
Other utensils abound, such as napkins, plates and silverware, all designed by Clement and set in motion by choreographer Chelsea Baldree. Heightening the fanciful effect is the lighting design of Karyn D. Lawrence.
This is a fully staged production, as elaborate as any you’ll encounter in the adult theater world, professional or amateur. Closing performances are this weekend on SCR’s Julienne Argyros Stage and they shouldn’t be missed, whether you’ve got a kid in the show or not. Call (714) 708-5555 for ticket information.
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