Actors Cabaret of Eugene is kicking off the holiday season with a tale as old as time in Beauty and the Beast, the Musical. Red roses, green garlands and an emo Beast lurking the halls during last-minute bathroom runs make ACE a prime destination for all your cozy, theatrical festivities.
Anthony Krall directs an authentic production of Disney’s masterpiece, which features music and lyrics by Alan Menken, Howard Ashman and Tim Rice, about an introverted bookworm who refuses to be just another housewife until she succumbs to the charms of a moody monster. The prologue, lit by twinkle lights, brought up childhood memories of fat VHS cases and lonely re-enactments of my one-woman ensemble of magical characters.
Ashley Apelzin is a plucky, obvious Belle with a powerful voice. Joshua Sayre is the ominous Beast, more bark than bite, while Chris McVein steals the show with spot-on Gaston gravitas.
Costumers Joe Zingo and Mary Jensen do their own fair share of flexing with some of their best creations. Mrs. Potts (Rene Ragan) received opening applause for her blue, floral teapot dress — a wonderful concept reminiscent of your grandmother’s couch repurposed for a better cause. Lumiere (Cody Mendonca) and Cogsworth (Jeff Weinkauf) along with an ensemble of gold cutlery are a grab bag of Liberace’s phases.
More known for their creative charm than musical prowess, ACE really shines through a rich ensemble in this production. Michael P. Watkins is both vocal director and choreographer, leading the charge through near perfect musical numbers. “Belle” sets the pace: Parisian vendors and patrons hustling in tune around an aloof Belle. “Gaston” is a rousing bar romp featuring Derek Rees as Lefou and McVein, later escalating into a harmonious and hypnotic angry mob. I found myself craning my neck like a confused puppy wondering if a gospel choir lay hidden in the rafters.
Translating this big show to ACE’s small stage feels effortless and fun, with strobe-lit wolves in onesies and a can-can line of twirling napkins. “Be Our Guest” defies fire regulations with sparkling creations spinning around one another on the impossibly small stage.
The add-on Broadway numbers not featured in the original movie lack the enthusiasm and appeal of the hits. The solos seem subdued and are hard to hear over the instrumental tracks, making the ensemble staples that more desirable for Disney purists.
Krall and crew deliver a feel-good family production that is a little predictable, playing into my one gripe about this classic story: Belle’s affinity for the Beast is never earned. And while I usually prefer my shows to be edgier, the warm, fireside vibe of the evening welcomes the familiarity as something delightful for all ages.
Beauty and the Beast runs through Dec. 21 at Actors Cabaret of Eugene. Tickets $17 and up at ActorsCabaret.org.