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March 20, 2007 > Beauty and the Beast

Beauty and the Beast

By Vidya Pradhan

For a little taste of Broadway, look no further than your own doorstep. The Newark Memorial High School (NMHS) Performing Arts Department presents the Academy & Tony Award-winning musical, "Beauty and the Beast".

I caught the show on opening night, Friday, March 17th, and was dazzled. Used to threadbare community theatre plays with minimum props and skeleton sets, the opulence of this production took my breath away. Three complete sets, showing Belle's home, the castle and the forbidden 'West Wing' keep the momentum going. The sets even spill out into the audience with some musical numbers performed all around the seating area.

The musical follows the Disney version of the fairy tale. In the NMHS production, a short movie, projected on a giant drop-down screen, explains the curse on the Beast and sets the stage for the play. Belle's father encounters the Beast after being lost in the woods and Belle shows up at the castle looking for him. When the Beast imprisons Belle in exchange for the father's safety, the ensorcelled servants, Cogsworth the clock, Lumiere the candlestick and Mrs. Potts, the teapot, entertain and comfort the Beauty. When the village mob, led by the vain and brawny Gaston, attacks the castle, Belle comes to realize her love for the Beast and the spell is broken.

While the enchanted costumes for the musical were provided by the Woodland Opera House, everything else from set design to lighting has been done by the students who should be extremely proud of the professional look of the production. Apart from a few barely noticeable opening night gaffes, the complex production went off beautifully and without a hitch. It is particularly noteworthy considering there are over 50 students in the cast and crew and there are some dance numbers with a few dozen performers on stage. A professional orchestra ensemble conducted by Anselmo Reis, an alumnus of NMHS, brings the music of Alan Menken to dramatic life.

Allison Moore, a senior at NMHS, vocalizes perfectly as Belle. Joe Reynolds and Ijay Espinoza bring the house down as Cogsworth and Lumiere. I was also impressed with the rafter shaking bass of Danny Englese, who plays the brutish Gaston wonderfully.

'Beauty and the Beast' is not one of my favorite fairy tales because of the vague suggestion of Stockholm syndrome but even I had a lump in my throat when the teapot sang 'Tale as old as time.' The audience apparently felt as moved because most of us were up on our feet cheering and hooting for the performers at the end of the show.

The musical brings a dash of big-city glamour to our neighborhood. And tickets are $12 at the door. Need I say more?

Catch the last 4 shows of the 'Beauty and the beast' this month at the NMHS Theatre.

Beauty and the Beast
Newark Memorial Theatre
39375 Cedar Blvd., in Newark, CA,
Fridays and Saturdays March 23rd, 24th, 30th and 31st at 8:00 p.m.
Sunday matinee, March 25th at 2:00 p.m.
$10.00 pre-sale &/or $12.00 at the door!
To order your tickets, or for more information, contact: Newark Memorial High School - c/o Steven Harrington by calling (510) 818-4451.

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