Musical theater has always been one of my favorite performing arts. I like to think I enjoy the happy music, the bright costumes, the festive choreography, and the drama that just verges on the edge of cheesiness. To satisfy my inner happy child, for the past six years, I’ve made it a point to attend every musical Santa Barbara High School performs. Sadly, by the time I made it to high school myself, I had discovered that I had little chance of scoring a role, as I lacked the talent to sing, act, and dance. Thus, I reserved myself to the perfectly good and respectable role as an audience member-until last year. When I heard about the chance to be involved in another way, I cleared my busy schedule and jumped at the opportunity.
This year, I return to the orchestra of Santa Barbara High’s performance of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. Thanks to many long hours clocked in by director Otto Layman, the show is complete with live music, handmade costumes, and of course, young talent. Early last week, I clambered atop a village house to join the orchestra and peered over the edge to get a sneak preview of this year’s production.
The show opens with background on Beauty and the Beast told in puppets: an ugly, old hag approaches the prince’s castle looking for a place to spend the night. However, once the prince sees her looks, he refuses to allow her entry. As punishment for his vanity, she casts a spell on him, turning him into a beast and his servants into household objects. The only hope of returning to human form depends upon a single rose. The beast can only break the spell if he finds true love before the last petal falls.
As the play opens, Belle (sophomore Jana McIntyre) wanders through the streets of her little village as the egotistical man Gaston (Cole Patterson) prepares to propose to her. Meanwhile, her father Maurice (Michael Landecker), an absent-minded inventor, gets lost in the woods on his way to the fair with his latest invention. Maurice happens upon the Beast’s castle as he looks for a place to spend the night, and while welcomed warmly by the castle staff, the Beast thinks otherwise. Belle chases after her father to find him imprisoned, and offers herself in exchange for her father’s freedom. Over time and the help of a few new friends, Belle comes to see the true heart within the Beast.
The Beast is played by graduating senior Christopher “Critter” Canfield, the co-star of last year’s The Pajama Game and Captain Hook in last season’s Peter Pan. His costume is one of the many incredible pieces in this production, including a fur-covered head and body, hooves, and glowing red eyes. Imagination runs wild within the Beast’s castle, where enchanted tables have utensils on every finger, chairs are alive, and the feather duster sings. The Beast’s household servants, including Madame (the wardrobe), Lumiere (the candlestick), Mrs. Potts (the teapot), and Cogsworth (the clock) have handmade costumes. The detail and ingenuity of the costumes alone are worth seeing.
However, while the costumes are incredible, the action on stage truly makes the play come to life. Mrs. Potts (Kendra Costigan) stands out with a spectacular performance of the classic “Beauty and the Beast” theme while McIntyre delivers all of her numerous songs with precision and grace. Patterson amuses the crowd with a lively performance and a sky-high ego, followed constantly by his shrill and adoring female fans. With a well-dressed cast and plenty of musical talent, I find this love story still pleasing to watch:and the show hasn’t even begun.
Beauty and the Beast premieres today, Friday, May 9 at 7 p.m. and runs May 10, 15, 16, and 17 at 7 p.m. A special Mother’s Day matinee takes place on Sunday, May 11 at 1 pm. Tickets are $10 adults, $7 students and can be purchased at the door or online at the theater department’s website.