A Beauty in a little town with a Beastly secret hidden in the neighboring woods.  What more could you want as the premise for a family show?  How about incredible music and voices that make you want to sing along with the beloved score?

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST is the second show of what is considered the Disney Renaissance ushered in by the team of musician Alan Menken and lyricist Howard Ashman.  Because Ashman died very young – he never finished Aladdin – when the stage version was being created, Disney turned to Sir Tim Rice for additional lyrics.  Rice had finished Aladdin upon Ashman’s death and went on to team with Menken for the stage adaptations for both Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin.

Belle (Kathryn Nash) lives in a provincial town in France.  Unlike the other women of the village, she has aspirations beyond marriage and children.  Over its 13-year run on Broadway, the role has been portrayed from a quirky, comedic style to a more dramatic ingénue.  There is no right or wrong.  Ms. Nash is more ingénue styling, with a tremendous belt and gentility towards the Beast that wrenches your heart as she declares her love for him.  By contrast, Joshua Bond brings a quirkiness to the Beast that quickly turns him loveable.

Gaston is the town heartthrob, and Nathan Haltiwanger does a great job of making you want to hate him despite dashing, almost-too-perfect looks and a great voice.  As LeFou, Anthony Llerandi is Gaston’s perfect jester.

Because of the Prince/Beast’s arrogance as a youth, his whole castle is enchanted, including the servants.  Alec Hadden as Cogsworth is the head of the household.  Mrs. Potts (Lisa Valdini Booth) has probably the most iconic in the title song of the show, which she brings home wonderfully.  Rodney Holmes (Lumiere) is uplifting in “Be Our Guest”, but his counterpart’s comedic talent as Babette (Natalie Brower) tends to steal the scenes.  Jennifer Hudson as Madame de la Grande Bouche has a voice that soars.  And the show-stealer of them all is Chip, with young Kat DeCicco being an obvious crowd favorite that evening.

There are quite a few additional cast members rounding out the BEAUTY AND THE BEAST ensemble, as well as understudying for various leads.  The voices in the troupe are a wonderful blend.  Their dance talent got a chance to shine in “Be Our Guest” and “Human Again”.

Shain Stroff has taken the Alhambra’s set design up a notch using a  revolving carousel to change scenes. The costuming was creative and beautiful.  The tableware in “Be Our Guest” was colorful and fun and Belle’s ball gown was stunning.

For fans who may have seen the show previously, the Alhambra does do an abbreviated version of the show.   For instance, the song “Maison des Lunes”, lyrics by Rice, has been omitted.  The advantage of an abbreviated version is the young audience not having to stay up too far past their bedtimes.

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST is at the Alhambra Theatre, 12000 Beach Blvd., June 8-July 30, 2023.  Ticket prices vary based on show and seating.  For reservations, go to alhambrajax.com or call (904) 641-1212.

By Cessy Newmon

About Cessy Newmon