Pickleville's 'Beauty and the Beast' is an absolute winner

Published: Monday, June 30 2014 3:05 p.m. MDT

Updated: Monday, June 30 2014 4:53 p.m. MDT

"DISNEY'S BEAUTY AND THE BEAST," through Aug. 30; Pickleville Playhouse, 2049 S. Bear Lake Blvd., Garden City; running time 2 hours 15 minutes with one intermission; $14.50-$19.50 (435-946-2918 or picklevilleplayhouse.com)

GARDEN CITY — Little girls will like the Pickleville Playhouse production of "Disney's Beauty and the Beast" being offered this summer.

But they're not the only ones.

It's done remarkably with colorful sets, over-the-top costumes, great acting and singing and a familiar story brought to life right before your eyes.

And while it will appeal directly to fans of Belle, it's also wholesome, lively entertainment for the entire family. There's no shortage of fun or freshness here.

Belle, played by Whitley Davis, is determined to break out of her provincial life and have some romance and adventure like she reads about in her beloved books. But she doesn't expect it to come in the form of a beast in an enchanted castle.

Gaston, played by Michael Francis with tremendous personality, is just as determined, but to have Belle for his wife. He's pompous, full of himself, cocky and funny. He can't see why Belle doesn't love him. What's not to love?

Lefou, his sidekick, played by Jordan Todd Brown, is hilarious. In fact, Brown takes what is usually a more minor part and kicks it up several notches. Every time he comes onstage, it's an event. Plus, he gets knocked down a lot, taking pratfalls like a pro.

Lumiere (Tony Carter), Cogsworth (Ray Seams), Mrs. Potts (Debbie Ditton), Chip (Carter Davis), the Wardrobe (Kassie Winkler) and Babette (Lirenza Gillette) all make their parts fun and engaging. They're so hopeful their master, the Beast, will fall in love with Belle and break the spell that turned them into household furniture.

The Silly Girls, played by Kenzie Davis, Tiffani Allen and Kylee Thurman, are delightful to watch as they try to win Gaston's hand and try to understand how Belle can be so disinterested in him. Again, they make more of their part than is usually available.

The Beast, played with roar and heart by Derek Davis, is a strangely sympathetic creature. He's bad-tempered, coming at Belle like a caveman, but vulnerable and lovable. It's easy to see why Belle falls in love with him. (Also, his costuming is clever with a tail that adds some extra humor.)

Director T.J. Davis said Pickleville waited seven years to bring the show to the Garden City stage as they worked out just how to present various scenes and parts of the story that generally require a much larger working space.

They've clearly made good use of the time to prepare as Maurice's invention, the forest wolves, Belle's spectacular golden gown and the transformation of the Beast are all impressive.

The direction is excellent with signature numbers like "Be Our Guest" surprisingly fresh and the chaotic run around the castle working in the small space available.

Although a couple of songs that didn't make it into the movie seem long, and Belle's father is a bit one-dimensional, for a good evening's entertainment after a hot day on the beach or in the sun, this is an absolute winner.

It's worth driving to Bear Lake just to see this show.

Sharon Haddock is a professional writer with more than 35 years' experience, 17 at the Deseret News. Her personal blog is at sharonhaddock.blogspot.com.

Email: haddoc@deseretnews.com

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