You know the ending. Getting there is the treat
Last updated 12/7/2017 at Noon
The Edmonds Driftwood Player’s presentation of “Disney’s Beauty and the Beast” is a well-acted and musically engrossing theatrical treat. Featuring a cast of 27 local theater veterans and a small live orchestra, there is rarely a dull moment in the two- and-a-half-hour production.
This stage adaptation of the 1991 Disney film follows the heroine Belle as she yearns for something much more than her provincial life in a small town with ordinary folks who find her beautiful yet odd. The vain and macho Gaston decides he must marry her because she is the most beautiful girl in town, and he deserves the best.
Belle however, wants none of it.
Through a series of events, Belle finds herself held captive in an enchanted castle with talking “knickknacks and paddywacks” along with her captor, the once dashing prince turned Beast. Sentenced to this hideous form by an enchantress, the Beast must learn to love and receive love in order to break the awful spell.
Director Andrew Coopman, whose previous credits include “Once Upon a Mattress” and “Little Women,” reunites with Driftwood Players to tell one of his most favorite stories of all time, yet with a different lens.
“I wanted to create a Belle who was an advocate for her own journey and a catalyst for change, instead of a victim of her fate,” he said. “As a director, my passion is telling stories in new and dynamic ways to reveal something more to you, the audience.”
The music, written for both the screen and stage by Alan Menken, Howard Ashman and Tim Rice, drives the story as well as providing the chief source of entertainment. In addition to the classic songs such as “Beauty and the Beast” and “Be Our Guest,” the story is further expanded with an elegantly woven number of harmonies and dance in “Human Again.”
The despairing emotions of the Beast are emphasized in “If I Can’t Love Her.”
I was impressed with the vocal talent of the cast, ranging from the operatic Katie Gary as Madame Bouche to the strong baritone of Jimmi Cook as Gaston to the soaring performance of Liz Oyama as Belle.
In addition to the high quality of singing, the play was finely acted with enough energy and humor to keep the audience engaged. LeFou I found particularly memorable, as he was continuously pummeled in cartoonish fashion by his buddy and mostly bully Gaston.
After the performance, I had a chance to chat with some of the cast offstage, including John Han, who plays LeFou. “ I feed from the audience a lot,” Han said. “ ‘Beauty and the Beast’ is very magical. Our version tells the story, plus more.”
I asked Katie Gary (Madame Bouche) what differentiates Beauty and the Beast from other Disney stories. “It’s a classic underdog story,” she said. “Belle doesn’t fit in, and she is looking to relate somewhere.”
With over two hours of nonstop music, dance, and costume numbers, I asked Adam Othmnan (Cogsworth) the physical toll the play puts on the cast. “All of us are exhausted emotion all the time,” he said.
Being particularly moved with Beaven Walter’s performance of the title song as Mrs. Potts, I asked how her musical endeavors led her to this point: “As I’ve matured, I have been looking for depth,” she said. “The music is very challenging.”
Walter’s real-life son, Scooter, plays Mrs. Pott’s son, Chip. “Chip is just like how I am, energetic,” Scooter said. He said he was extremely excited to play his first big role.
While the production value is not as elaborate as bigger ones, I was impressed by the professionalism and heart of this simpler presentation. It speaks to the desire within all of us to break free from the difficulties and maladies of life and to be truly and fully human.
Disney’s Beauty and the Beast”
Where: Driftwood Players at Wade James Theater, 950 Main St., Edmonds
When: Through Dec. 17. 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. Matinee special 2 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 16
Tickets: $28, $25 juniors, seniors, military
Information: 425-774-9600, www.edmondsdriftwoodplayers.org