St. Albans & National Cathedral Schools Beauty and the BeastBy Cappies • Feb 25th, 2008 • Category: Cappies
A tale as old as time graced the stage at St. Albans & National Cathedral Schools this weekend. Beauty and the Beast, the 17th century French folk tale retold so memorably by Disney on screen, has a new life onstage. When the classic animation came out in 1991, it was the first cartoon to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture. The show was adapted for Broadway in 1994, with the addition of seven new songs, and was nominated for nine Tony awards.
As Belle, Annette Russell‘s consistent vocals drove the show. Her effortless soprano created the bookish ingénue, considered “odd” by the others in her town. Russell shone especially in “No Matter What” and “Something There.”
In dastardly counterpoint, James Waters‘ Gaston was delightfully arrogant. His baritone and smug grin were electric from his first moments onstage, and particularly in “Me,” his ode to himself. Nike Duffy was Lefou, Gaston’s sidekick, a refreshing comic figure who excelled at his many pratfalls. The two actors played off each other magnificently, creating truly believable characters, and were able to display their talents in “Gaston.”
The most satisfying ensemble onstage was the trio of Lumiere (Alek Barkats), Cogsworth (Lyon Stewart) and Mrs. Potts (Vanessa Williams). They were always energetic and engaging, and were particularly impressive musically in “Something There” and “Human Again.” Williams sang the title song, made well known by Angela Lansbury, and her warm voice sparkled. Other impressive household members included Babette (Kate Eberstadt), who had excellent chemistry with Lumiere, and Chip, Mrs. Potts’ irrepressible son, played adorably by Caroline Kelley.
The ensemble created their provincial French village in “Belle,” especially Gaston’s fawning admirers, the “Silly Girls” (Lida Benson, Lizzy Lewis, Izzy Eberstadt). The danced their way through “Be Our Guest” as chinaware and glasses, utilizing the multiple levels of the set. At times the ensemble lacked energy and broke character, but for the most part they continued the show admirably.
The set evoked old-world stone architecture with many different entrances and levels. The crew was very efficient, though clearly visible as they moved. Sounds (designed by David Ludwig) such as wolf howls and the Beast’s roars were always perfectly timed and at an appropriate volume for the space. The Beast’s makeup (done by Camilla Nord) was very impressive, particularly his mask.
St. Albans & National Cathedral Schools told their tale artfully, reaffirming timeless truths such as the fallacy of relying on appearances, the importance of being yourself, even if that means being different, and the power of true love.
by Kyle Eichner of Sidwell Friends
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