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Queens Chronicle

Love is magical in ‘Beauty and the Beast’

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Posted: Thursday, August 8, 2019 10:30 am

It’s a tale almost as old as time, but “Beauty and the Beast,” a musical being performed by The JC Players through Aug. 11, remains an enchanting fairy tale, a story of how love can change people and overcome just about anything.

In this version, a stage adaptation of the Disney film of the same name, the music by Alan Menken adds immeasurably to the telling. The simple lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice help to reveal the characters’ innermost thoughts, while Linda Woolverton’s book is frequently touching.

This rendering, under the direction of Barbara Auriemma and music direction of Frank Auriemma, a veritable one-man band on the keyboard, proved a crowd pleaser at last Saturday night’s performance, as young and old alike reveled in the romance, humor, and magical transformations of many of the show’s denizens.

At the center are Belle (Sara Svezia), the beauty of the title, and a young, heartless prince who, as punishment for his cold-hearted ways, is turned into The Beast (Charles P. Hinz).

They are surrounded by a large assortment of memorable characters, of both the good and evil sort. Among these is the local town hero, the egotistical Gaston (Austin Auriemma), who spends much of his time posing and flexing and trying to win Belle’s affections.

Every member of the company, which spans the generations, was fully invested in the proceedings. Svezia, who resembles a young Sutton Foster, was a vocal pleasure, imbuing her solos with a sweet sentimentality that serves the material well. This was particularly evident in “Is This Home,” in which Belle reflects on the need to find the positive in a dark situation, and “A Change in Me,” a realization that “a truer life” is about to begin for her.

Hinz, assuming a gravelly speaking voice, often roaring with abandon, delivered a heartfelt “If I Can’t Love Her,” coming to terms with a potentially disastrous fate.

Auriemma, as always, was a strong presence, self-confident, and delighting in his character’s over-the-top antics.

A couple of troupers made for a delightful team: Andres Caamal as Lumiere, who, for the most part, cavorts as a candelabra, and John DiBono, as Cogsworth, a clock come to life.

Dolores Voyer was charming as Mrs. Potts and delivered the show’s well-known title song with feeling. Young Benjamin Brosky was an adorable Chip, a living, breathing teacup, and Mark York as Maurice, Belle’s eccentric father, shared a tender moment with his daughter in “No Matter What,” a paean to their mutual uniqueness.

Another lovely moment came with Belle’s reading of a classic novel to the illiterate Beast, when they come to understand they have more in common than might have been suspected.

Two production numbers were particularly enjoyable: “Human Again,” and, most especially, “Be Our Guest,” which turned the dancers loose, bringing to life the choreography of Christine Hinz.

A few drawbacks must be noted. The tiny stage at the show’s first venue (it moves to a more spacious locale this coming weekend) often seemed crowded, leaving performers little room to move. On occasion, exaggerated reactions detract from the characters’ credibility, proving, once again, that sometimes less is more. And the set, a backdrop of black and gold curtains, was undeniably overly simple. Not so the costumes. Nearly stealing the show were the fantastic designs by Amy Ellis, who is also credited with their construction. Indeed, in many cases, “construction” aptly describes their complex making.

‘Beauty and the Beast’
When: Sat., Aug. 10, 8 p.m.; Sun., Aug. 1, 3 p.m.
Where: Community United Methodist Church, 75-27 Metropolitan Ave., Middle Village
Tickets: $20, $18 children and seniors
(917) 647-7526, jcplayers.com

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