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Friday, July 20, 2007

Ever Just the Same, Ever a Surprise

When one goes to see a community production of Beauty and the Beast, like Front Range Music Theatre’s production at the Lincoln Center which I saw last night, one has a pretty good idea of what to expect: an enchanting and fun musical fairy tale.
There will undoubtedly be a beautiful and plucky actress with a cheery uplifting songbird voice to give life to the lovely bookworm heroine, Belle. In this case, that role is filled sublimely by Michelle Anton, whose alter ego is that of a first-grade school teacher in Longmont.(My first-grade teacher was a large, ill-tempered woman named Eula Mae Morris who used to hit me with a ruler. I got hornswoggled.)
You can also reasonably expect that there will be a dynamic ensemble of funny and delightful characters. Front Range’s production definitely does, particularly in the personages of Jim Miller as the amorous French candelabrum, Lumiere (No, it is “candelabrum.” Look it up.), Lloyd A. Norton as the befuddled and charming Maurice, Scott Gagnon as the egocentric Gaston, Bryan Bell as the cowardly but devoted LeFou (in addition to being the choreographer), Jalyn Courtenay Webb as the mothering Mrs. Potts, and many, many more, including a couple of my favorite people to watch on stage in the chorus, Kendra Jacobs and Aaron Quintana. (Aaron also assistant choreographed.)
You can also expect that the community production will absolutely break the bank to supply high production values like amazing costumes, show-stopping dance numbers (forged, if I may remind you, by Bryan and Aaron), impressive sets, and a number of clever affects, including performers who actually fly off-stage.
What you might not expect is to see that the other title character isn’t played simply as an alternately snarling and mugging cartoon. You might be surprised to see a character rather than a caricature, a portrait of a deeply troubled and sensitive creature whose irascibility and brutality mask a lost soul on the brink of despair. You might not expect to be so moved by this man/monster’s internal transformation as he sings the beautiful and sad, “If I Can’t Love Her.” You might not expect to see that, but I did. Of course, I knew before-hand that the role was going to be portrayed by my good friend and one of this area’s favorite performers, David Ambroson.
Fun for the whole family, and running a scant two weekends, you don’t want to miss this.

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