ORANGE CITY, Iowa -- Shows don’t get any more elaborate than the Tulip Festival’s production of “Beauty and the Beast.”
Boasting highly detailed costumes, sets and special effects, it surprises at every turn, even when the augmented script and songs don’t.
Adapted from the Oscar-nominated animated film, “the Broadway musical,” as it’s billed, drags only when several somber numbers (added by Alan Menken and Tim Rice) try to give the normally bouncy show heft.
Thankfully, they haven’t nudged those unforgettable anthems – “Be Our Guest,” “Belle” and the title number. They’re masterfully staged by director Todd Vande Griend and choreographer Becky Donahue, resulting in more plate spinning and high kicking than a three-ring circus.
Although Kate Henreckson and Brandon Miller do fine work as the title characters, they’re frequently upstaged by all the household regulars and the one-two punch of Gaston (Don King) and Lefou (Thai Hua). Hua is so bouncy, resilient and athletic, he has some new piece of business every time the blowhard Gaston backhands him. The two clearly own the show until Lumiere (Drew Lemke), Cogsworth (Jack Bonnecroy), Mrs. Potts (Susan Veltkamp) and the stuffed wardrobe Madame De La Grande Bouche (Cindy Moeller) get to welcome Belle to the castle with “Be Our Guest.” The song is such a showstopper, the first act really should end when it’s over. But the musical’s writers have tacked on another that merely serves to delay the inevitable.
Luckily, the quartet gets another chance at pumping up the volume when they stage a big date in the castle’s ballroom. Veltkamp does a fine job with the touching theme song and little James Bonnema gets plenty of smileage as Chip, the boy who’s a teacup, wondering what’s going on between B&B. He has a cart that’s pretty marvelous, too. (It creates the illusion that he’s just a head on a plate.) And Lemke is so naturally charming, it’s safe to say the stage lights up when Lumiere is around.
For younger fans of the animated film, the musical could seem long. Those filler songs are the reason, not the cast that works overtime. Indeed, if you have one of those children with you, point out the hardworking gargoyles, who not only move the many set pieces but also do a great job of freezing in place.
When the Beast softens and warms to Belle, Miller and Henreckson come into their own and get to have fun. He gets a sparkly jacket; she works the iconic yellow ball gown.
While the show’s sound system sometimes robs the actors of good lines, it doesn’t hurt the songs or compete with the very good orchestra. Making simple adjustments (even to the microphones) could clear much of that up.
The beauty of this “Beast” is seeing how much detail has gone into every aspect of the show. If you’re lucky enough to have a ticket, be sure to pay attention to the sets and costumes. They’re as true as they can be, helping sell this tale as old as time in the best way possible.
“Disney’s Beauty and the Beast” runs through Saturday at the Unity Christian Knight Center in Orange City. Curtain time is 8 p.m. For ticket information, call 712-707-4510.