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“BE OUR GUEST” is the running title for Disney's new live action film of BEAUTY AND THE BEAST. But you can be the Beast’s guest for the next two weeks as the delightful BBB company of BEAUTY AND THE BEAST resides at the Fox Theatre only through November 20th. It is a dazzling enchanted production under the direction of Kelly Tighe who says, “At it’s heart, BEAUTY AND THE BEAST is a story of two people overcoming factors that contribute to making them outsiders. It’s only when these two people, outsiders for such disparate reasons, find themselves under the same roof, in the same circumstance, that our story takes flight. And of course, as always, love, kindness, honesty and a little bit of magic are the keys to solving their problems”.

The lavish 2 ½ hour show is based on the 1991 animated movie with Disney's most modern heroine; it also features some of the best tunes in the Disney songbook. The movie was the first animated film to be nominated for the Academy Award for best picture. It earned Oscars for best original score and best original song for the title tune "Beauty and the Beast," with music by the great Alan Menken and lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice with book by Linda Woolverton.

Based on the classic French 18th century fairy tale "La Belle et la Bete," "Beauty and the Beast" tells the story of plucky village girl, Belle, played by local favorite Anya Absten who lives with her eccentric, inventor father, Maurice. She fights off the advances of the buffoonish Gaston in favor of her beloved books. When her quirky father is taken captive by the horrifying Beast, really, of course, a prince who has been enchanted by a sorceress -- Belle bravely forces the Beast to take her hostage instead. The award-winning Disney musical holds up to its classic tale still after 22 years.

Belle is warmly welcomed in the Beast’s castle by an array of enchanted characters who were once human from Lumiere the candelabra/maitre d' played by the terrific Brandon North to the housekeeper/teapot Mrs. Potts played by the likeable Maureen Duffy Frentz. Both Absten and Frentz sing “Home” and their voices carry wonderfully through the Fox Theatre. If these enchanted folks can convince the Beast to woo Belle to love him in return, they will be returned to human form. Easier said than done with the fiery Belle.

The romantic heart of the show still is a beautiful love tale. Of course, the story is one of our favorite storybook classics yet, “The Phantom of the Opera” comes to mind when you see our heroine captured by the Beast. But he is not the Phantom and all your old friends are there. The handsome prince condemned by a magical curse to a life as the burly beast. This Beast played by the convincing Daniel Rubio is more threatening and sympathetic for his search for love. Rubio is the classic sympathetic villain/hero, his pitch perfect voice will impress you in his powerful solo “How Long Must This Go On”

Rubio plays the creature as a cross between the Phantom, the Hunchback of Notre Dame and a gentle giant; he conveys the passion of awakening love. He has a big voice and uses it to great effect in “If I Can’t Love Her”. Belle, played by the elegant and excellent Anya Absten is the beautiful, strong bookworm who wanders into the Beast's castle and becomes his window to break the spell. The two struck such sympathy that you really hope the winsome Belle will see "the beauty that lies within" and fall in love with him. Her remarkable winning voice in “Home” captures Absten’s performance. The cast of 26 all pour their hearts and souls to tell this classic.

Baritone and handsome John Melis, who plays the villain Gaston, sings “Me” and establishes himself as the bully and the man who wants to marry Belle. Melis’ has a booming voice and his sidekick, Lafou., played by the frisky talented Warren Wernick, has the perfect comic timing with his headstrong boss. His show stopper “Gaston” is marvelous and brings the ensemble cast all on stage to Adam Elsberry’s brilliant choreography. Elsberry’s skill and craft is highlighted in the iconic wow production of “Be Our Guest” - highlighted by dancers Danila Burshteyn, Jannette Jeffrey and a high kicking riveting cast.

The storybook sets by Tighe, who is known for his award winning set designs, is thrilled to direct his first production for BBB. His direction is grand as well as his set design, especially the moody dark castle with its icon staircase and many rooms and levels. Both Tighe and Elsberry put their all in the handsome show stopper “Be Our Guest” - it is the staple musical number the show and animated film is famous for. Sung by the enchanted candle stick, Lumiere, played by the charismatic Brendon North. The color and pizzazz of the direction and dance is eye popping fun.

Featuring a great ensemble including Chrissy Brooks-Knipp, Sammi Hildebrandt, Jeannette Jeffrey, Minna Rogers, and Gabrielle Traub, Danila Burshteyn, Josiah Frampton, Isaac Goldberg, Javi Harnley, Joe Hudelson and Neal Pascua. This is Disney spectacle at its finest and most unforgettable, and excessively entertaining. The stage version adds a few new numbers, that further humanize the Beast, the sentimental "If I Can't Love Her" and "How Long Must this Go On?" and Rubio is very poignant during the strong moving solos.

What makes this show so enduring is the liltingly romantic "Beauty and the Beast" sung by Frentz as Mrs. Potts is warm and touching. The boisterous "Gaston" sung by Melis with just the right amount of cocky bombast accompanied by foot stomping, fully realized chorus of townsfolk. “Belle” sung by Absten self-titled girl-power anthem performed with a pitch perfect mix of innocence and determination and a pure, clear voice. The winning Brendon North as the winky, flirty Lumiere is a show stealer. With his Louis XVI candel hair wig, Lumiere provides the show's comic relief and dazzle.

The performances are fresh and the bewitched characters in the castle turning from human into pottery really touch your heart. The teacup played by adorable waif Liam Kimhi and Cogsworth, the stressed out windup clock played by the frisky keen Ray D’Ambrosio. Babatte and Madame De La Grande Bouche two enchanted women in the Beast's castle are played by the sexy flirty Jocelyn Pickett and the engaging theatrical Jennifer Stark. Enthusiastic Nick Quintell is perfect as evil doctor D’Arque that tries to commit Belle's father, Maurice, played by the compelling energetic Jasen Jeffrey. “No Matter What” features both Jeffrey and Absten in a father/daughter duet that warms up the first act.

The second act brings some of Alan Menken’s classic work “Beauty and the Beast” sung by the elegant, Frentz. “Human Again” sung by the enchanted cast North, D’Ambrosio, Pickett, Frentz, Kimhi, and Stark is stunning and staged well by director Tighe. Belle and the Beast sing the closing “Transformation” that will move you to tears. Rubio is strong and dynamic as the Beast and his voice is charismatic. Under the music direction of Sean Kana he kept the the skilled cast upbeat behind his 18 piece elegant orchestra.

The costumes are colorful and detailed - this BEAUTY is probably my fourth viewing of the show, and in past productions the costumers keep the enchanted cast in clever boxie type prop costumes that clearly show off the teapot, feather duster, chest of drawers and candle holder. Angela Lazear’s and Leandra Watson’s costume designs for the enchanted cast was kept simple and sometimes confusing. The village cast was dressed in classic Disney wear and Belle’s dresses all full of life and color. The Beast was dark full of capes and wonderful wigs designed by Alexis Lazear.

A storm is blasting while the sell out crowd enters the Fox and the storm and lighting continue in Jon Hayward’s smashing sound design. The lighting in the castle is dark and rich with mood set by the fog, and lighting designed by Aaron Spivey. His magic around the enchanted Rose is a standout and highlighted by the excellent props by Warren Wernick who created an eye popping effect. His props for the castle and village are all first class including the cart and Maurice’s inventions.

It is a dose of splendidly old-fashioned, high energy entertainment with a surprisingly tough center in Belle and the Beast, much needed in these contentious times. The cast is solid and the production team has out done themselves. Broadway by The Bay continues to produce wonderful Bay Area theatre and this production of BEAUTY AND THE BEAST closes out their 50th season. THE PRODUCERS will open their 2017 Season on March 17th and include NEXT TO NORMAL, SMOKEY JOE'S CAFE, and SINGING IN THE RAIN. The Fox Theatre sold out weekend audience were pleased and the many families and fans were on their feet at the close of the musical. The BEAST is only in town for a short run, get your tickets today!.

Broadway By The Bay Presents



Music by Alan Menken and lyrics by Howard Ashman, with additional songs composed by Alan Menken and lyrics by Tim Rice. Book by Linda Woolverton.

Directed by Kelly James Tighe, Choreographed by Adam Elsberry,

Music Director Sean Kana

Costume Design by Angela F Lazear, and Leandra Watson

Only Through November 20th

Fox Theatre

2215 Broadway Street, Redwood City, CA

2 and 1/2-hour show One intermission

Photo’s by Mark Kitaoka Mark & Tracy Photography

Features: Anya Absten, Daniel Rubio, Maureen Duffey Frentz, Jennifer Stark, Jocelyn Pickett, John Melis, Warren Wernick, Brendon North, Ray D’Ambrosio, Jasen Jeffrey, Camille Edralin, Jessica Maxey, Lizzie Moss, and Nick Quintell,Chrissy Brooks-Knipp, Sammi Hildebrandt, Jeannette Jeffrey, Minna Rogers, Gabrielle Traub, Danila Burshteyn, Josiah Frampton, Isaac Goldberg, Javi Harnley, Joe Hudelson and Neal Pascua. Directed by Kelly James Tighe and his team Sean Kana, Adam Elsberry, Aaron Spivey, Warren Wernick Angela Lazear, Leandra Watson, Alexis Lazear, Jon Hayward, Kimily Cockle , Alex Wolf, Alicia Jeffrey and Michelle Klingler.

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