by Sam Desmond, Suffolk County News & Islip Bulletin
A staple of childhood for those (grudgingly) known as geriatric millennials, Disney’s 1992 animated film “Beauty and the Beast” set a bar for romance and splendor, and is possibly the impetus behind some of the French-country-inspired-shabby-chic trends of mid-to late-30s home décor.
CM Performing Arts Center had the gargantuan task of bringing that magic back for older audiences and inspiring younger ones, and they knocked it out of the park with their brilliant set design, glorious choreography, and earnest performances.
The contrast of Belle and Maurice’s cottage with the opulence of the Beast’s castle was captured perfectly by scenic designer John Mazzarella and carpenters Chad Hulse and Brendan Noble. Whereas Belle’s cottage is filled with autumnal tones and warm, welcoming French provincial style (“there must be more than this provincial life!”), the Beast’s castle is decadent with royal purple and gold, but dark and uninviting while caught under the damning spell of the enchantress.
The second layer of ambiance, of equal importance, was costume design, of which Ronald Green III clearly drew inspiration from the film with 18th-century French style.
The difficult task of anthropomorphizing household items and conveying to the audience their inanimate nature while being human-sized was handled beautifully with costume indicators, such as the balloon/teapot shape of Mrs. Potts with a bright-white glove to stand in as her spout, and the full-panel coverage of Cogsworth and the Vanity.
Lumiere’s costume was everything envisioned, complete with blowing flames.
Makeup, especially the Beast’s, by Jackie St. Louis, was equal parts subtle and terrifying that allowed for ease of movement and expression.
While there was no one particularly named as furrier for the production, the Beast’s mane and the wolves’ headpieces perfectly complimented the animalistic but elegant choreography of their movements.
Fight choreographer Matthew Fletcher Tester put together a daring and nuanced scene with the Beast and Gaston’s pivotal fight at the end, making for an inspired transformation after quite the physical feat.
All this, to set up for marvelous performances that brought the classic to life and beyond.
Ryan Nolin’s Lumiere was the standout and crowd favorite with rocket-shuttle launch precision timing of bon mots and flirtation. His tempestuous relationship with Babette, played coyly and fashionably by Adriana Michelle Scheer, was almost as interesting as the main romance, and certainly the funniest.
Jordan Yates’s LeFou was straight out of a Jerry Lewis act, with the fawning foil of Gaston, played with playful toxic masculinity by the exceedingly charming Thomas H. Anderson, who nailed the smarmy, half-lip-cocked look of the original, self-centered character.
The tavern scene (“I use antlers in all of my decorating!”) features a must-see group dance scene complete with clinking beer steins that is frenetically energetic and a great feast for the eyes with all the colorful costumes.
Jannet Kim’s “Tale as Old as Time” was a stirring rendition that showcased a powerhouse of vocals and matched the emotion of the scene perfectly.
Belle, played by Lainee Jentz, and the Beast, played by Peter J. Osterman, had undeniable chemistry and faithfully carried the relationship of the titular characters from adversaries to soulmates.
In the final scene, when the Beast is restored to his princely appearance, Osterman truly captured the look of a freed man celebrating with his love with an earnest, boyishly happy glint in his eyes.
A production to be enjoyed by all ages, “Beauty and the Beast” is a family affair for the holiday season.