By Kristen Waagner, McLean High School
Fog fills the stage and instantly recognizable chords play as a beautiful enchantress curses a selfish prince, dooming him to remain a hideous beast until he learns to love. As the years pass, he begins to despair, for who could ever learn to love a beast? Heritage High School’s production of “Beauty and the Beast” encapsulated all the magic of the beloved family classic, proving once and for all that true beauty is found within.
The tale of “Beauty and the Beast” was made wildly popular by the 1991 animated Disney film, and enjoyed a resurgence in popularity with a 2017 live-action version starring Emma Watson. The Broadway adaptation, conceived in 1994, includes music by the legendary trio of Alan Menken, Howard Ashman, and Tim Rice; both classics like “Be Our Guest” and new favorites like “Home” find a place in the musical. The heartwarming love story follows Belle, the book-loving town outcast who just wants to find adventure in the great wide somewhere. Her wish for adventure is granted when she becomes the prisoner of a Beast, who hopes that she will be the one to teach him to love and break the curse upon his castle.
As the titular Beauty, Lyndsay Snider embodied Belle’s headstrong, yet caring nature with nuanced choices that complemented her pleasant soprano vocals, best showcased in “A Change In Me.” Her relationship with the Beast (Nick Trusty) evolved over the course of the show, from a charming friendship in “Something There” to a passionate chemistry after his transformation. Trusty’s dynamic portrayal of the Beast allowed him to inhabit a wide spectrum of emotion, from red-hot fury to tender vulnerability.
Gokce Necioglu as the suave candelabra Lumiere was a true standout, thanks to incredible versatility in voice and movement. His stunning dance skills made “Be Our Guest,” which also highlighted the prodigious ensemble, a spectacle, as he performed toe-touches, axel turns, and tap steps with apparent ease. Swaggering narcissist Gaston (Austin Richardson) and his incompetent, but spirited sidekick Lefou (Nick Farro) were highlighted in the highly enjoyable villain’s number “Gaston,” which featured Farro’s hilarious character voice and the acrobatic skills of exceptional dancer Avery Kasper. The choreography awed the audience when Richardson, in a show of Gaston’s amazing strength, lifted Kasper over his head to cheers from the cast.
The technical elements of “Beauty and the Beast” solidified the magical atmosphere of the Beast’s castle and the peacefulness of Belle’s quaint provincial village. Many aspects of the set, props, and special effects included a rose motif, notably in a beautiful stained-glass panel in the castle, which made evident a collective attention to detail by the technical crews. Creative lighting design established effective tableaus, and could take the scene from charming to sinister with just a few changes. Fog, shadows, and a versatile set also augmented enchanted moments, especially the Beast’s transformation from man to animal and back again.
Complete with far-off places, magic spells, and a prince in disguise, Heritage High School has brought new life to a tale as old as time through “Beauty and the Beast.”
[This review of the May 5 performance at Heritage High School is part of a series published in a partnership between Loudoun Now and The Cappies, a writing and awards program that trains high school theatre and journalism students to be expert writers, critical thinkers, and leaders.]