Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Beauty & the Beast Roars Across Palace Stage

It was date night again in the Bacon household. “Beauty and the Beast” was playing at the Palace Theater in downtown Lockport. It was a long day for us, though. Earlier in the day, we took the girls to Lockport High School to see “The Little Mermaid.” That was after I took one child to Medina for bowling in the morning, and Wendy took the littlest one to two hours of dance class. It was a little bit of a hectic date night, to say the least.

I am always impressed with the quality of the shows at the Palace. Christopher Parada is at the top of his game once again with the selection of shows, the selection of cast members, and his leadership as director of the shows. I can’t wait to see what he does with “Billy Elliot.”

 “Beauty and the Beast” is a show that was perfectly timed by the Palace. With a live-action movie released at nearly the same time, the ever-popular Disney musical could get even more attention as the traditional stage musical. As always, it was a spectacular show.

Kelly Ersing as Belle was an excellent choice. She was poised, beautiful, and could sing like a dream. I loved her interactions with Gaston. Her independent streak and general disdain for her erstwhile paramour came through in body language and facial expressions.

Gaston, always the evil villain in the movie, was very ably played by Joshua Ranallo. He was hilarious in the role, and visually, fit very well. He was a great singer. Again, body language and facial expressions made the character come to life. Ranallo was a lot of fun to watch. The same could be said of his partner in crime, Tyler Brown, as LeFou. Brown was the second half of the comic relief for the show. Together, Brown and Ranallo made a fantastically funny duo. I’ll bet their roles were just a lot of fun to play. It looked that way to me.

There was another team on stage that were equally as funny in tandem. Lumiere and Cogsworth were hilarious. Portrayed by Robby Syruws and Sean Murphy, respectively, they played off one another with great comedic timing. Syrwus’ facial expressions were worth the price of admission whenever he was pursuing Babette. Murphy played the hapless Cogsworth with a nervousness that made each line he uttered funnier than the last. Despite being a Disney show, the double entendres served up by both actors were delightfully funny.

Speaking of Babette, Katie Merrill once again has brought it all to the stage and left the audience asking for more. She was provocative without being over the top, and answered Lumiere’s subtle humor with much of her own. Each actor, of course, know all their lines, but the real acting comes in the poise shown on stage. All the mannerisms shown here added more depth, hilarity, and emotion to the production. Merrill definitely excels with that.

Mrs Potts, Cogsworth, Lumiere, and the Beast
courtesy Palace Theater
Taylor Clarson played Mrs. Potts, while Sadie Igoe was her son, Chip. Sadie is in school with one of my daughters, so I get to see quite a bit of her acting. She is simply wonderful. She can sing. She can dance. She can act. And she does it all with grace and a big smile on her face. With many years ahead of her, she can only get better, and will be one of the big stars of the new generation coming up at the Palace. I did feel just a bit sorry for her. It sure looked like that contraption she was in was very uncomfortable. Still, she persevered through it all and gave a fine performance.

Clarson, as the worried mother and cook of the enchanted castle, was fantastic. I loved her singing. Her affection toward Chip shone through her acting, delivering more levels to the character we saw on stage. It amazed me how she was able to remember every time she took her hands off the cart to put them into tea pot formation. It’s little things like that which make the show so much better.

I asked Geoff Koplas after the show if his costume was just something that he normally kept in his closet. He laughed As the scatterbrained inventor and father Belle, Koplas, with mis-matched socks and crazy hair, gave an astounding performance. A long-time veteran on the Palace stage, Koplas somehow morphs into the character that he’s playing. It is easy to forget that he’s the same guy you meet on the street. It is amazing to watch him melt into the characters he plays.

Belle and the Beast
courtesy Palace Theater
What truly made this show was Jake Hayes. He was the star of the show as the Beast. I’ve watched him in several other Palace productions, and have always been impressed with his commanding presence on stage even in support roles. This time, it was his turn to shine as the lead in a show. Jake owned the stage as the Beast whenever he was in a scene.

I’ve heard Jake sing many times in other shows. This time, the music seemed to be made for him. His voice echoed through the theater, rich, deep, and soulful. It was refreshing to see him break free and lead the production as the Beast. His performance resonated with the torment and hope that defined the Beast. This role was a perfect vehicle for Jake’s talents.

The choreography by Dyan Mulvey was just as amazing as ever. The dance routines were crisp and exciting. There was a stage full of dancers and they all knew exactly where to be in order not to run into each other, or kick each other. There were a lot of kicks. Those dancers and actors had to work hard to learn all the moves. That hard work paid off.

I had forgotten how funny this show was. There are lots of humorous moments throughout the show. The Silly Girls trio of Emily Prucha, Meghan Curr, and Rheanna Gallego as they swooned over Gaston reminded me of my days in high school when girls did the same for me. They were so much fun to watch, I eagerly anticipated their inevitable returns to the stage for various scenes.

If you missed the first weekend of “Beauty and the Beast “ at the Historic Palace Theater in downtown Lockport, you’re lucky. You have five more chances to catch the show. Thursday, Friday, and Saturday have evening shows at 7:30pm. There are two matinees, Saturday at 2:00pm, and Sunday at 3:00pm. I think this show is definitely worth taking the time to see. Get your tickets. Enjoy yourselves.

Craig Bacon thinks Jeanette gave everything she had, gave it her all, in the pit. Yes, someone told me to say that. In the meantime, we still have two shows on the Palace Theater, and are considering Shea’s tickets. Be prepared for more show reviews.