MPlay101

Disney’s Beauty and the Beast (Mt. Tamalpais State Park)

If you haven’t had a chance in the last 104 years to check out the Mountain Play, now’s as good a time as any. This year brings an enjoyable production of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast to the Cushing Memorial Amphitheater atop Mt. Tamalpais and while it’s a trek to get there, it’s a trek worth taking.

Based on a French fairytale (which is the source of innumerable film, television, and stage adaptations) and adapted by Disney into a highly successful animated film in 1991, it premiered on Broadway in 1994 to great commercial – if not critical –  success and was the first of what now seems to be an endless stream of Disney musicals.

Jeff Wiesen (Gaston) and Chelsea Holifield (Belle)

The tale as old as time is of a romantic triangle consisting of Belle (Chelsea Holifield), an unwanted suitor and local him-bo (Jeff Weisen) and a reclusive prince/beast (Daniel Barrington Rubio). The prince, cursed to be a beast until he learns to love and be loved in return, lives a solitary life in his castle with his only companions being his staff who, apparently also cursed, happen to be transmogrifying into various inanimate household objects. Circumstances bring the lovely Belle to him and it becomes a race against time to beat the curse’s final outcome – permanent beastliness.

If you know the film, you know the show. All the characters are here albeit with some slight modifications. The eight songs from the film by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman are joined by six additional numbers by Menken and Tim Rice. The action takes place in either the castle or a small village with a three-part revolving stage facilitating a quick change between the two.

We’re talking a stage adaptation of a cartoon here, folks, so there isn’t a lot of depth to be found. The leads, as written, are pretty bland but Holifield and Barrington Rubio’s strong vocal performances make up for what their characters lack. Disney villains often provide actors with the most memorable roles and Jeff Weisen is a lot of fun as the strutting blowhard Gaston. You almost, almost feel bad for him at his ‘exit’.

The show’s most entertaining moments are provided by the supporting cast with an assist by costumer Michelle Navarre-Huff. Buzz Halsing’s ‘Cogsworth’, Zachary Isen’s ‘Lumière’, Samantha Cooper’s ‘Babbette’, Jennifer Boesing’s ‘Mrs. Potts’ and Jenny Matteucci’s ‘Madame de la Grande Bouche’ bring color, energy, and humor to every scene they’re in, culminating in the terrific ensemble number “Be Our Guest”.

Buzz Halsing (“Cogsworth”), Zachary Isen (Lumière)

Director Jay Manley meets most of the challenges provided with staging a large-scale musical in the cavernous 4,000 seat amphitheater. The nuance and color that the element of lighting can provide is sorely missed from this production but what are you going to do when your only source is the sun? David Möschler directs a 22-piece orchestra who deliver but no amount of amplification can reproduce the sound and sense of an orchestra filling a theater. These sacrifices are somewhat offset by the magnificent surroundings of Mt. Tamalpais State Park

Attending The Mountain Play production of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast requires a commitment of time and effort well in excess of a usual theatre-going venture. It can involve a bus trip, hiking, picnicking, and the risk of sunburn and poison oak. The reward is a pleasant afternoon of joyous, family-friendly theatre.

Be their guest.

Note – It is HIGHLY recommended that you visit the Mountain Play website for critical information regarding parking and transportation to the show as well as other important information.

Disney’s Beauty and the Beast

Presented by the Mountain Play Association

Sundays through June 18 @ 2pm

Cushing Memorial Amphitheatre
Mt. Tamalpais State Park
801 Panoramic Highway
Mill Valley, CA 94941

www.mountainplay.org

Photos by McNally and Company Photography

 

About the Author

Harry DukeHarry Duke is an actor, director, teacher, and theatre critic whose reviews can be seen online at the For All Events website and in print in the Sonoma County Gazette. He can also be heard weekly on KSRO's "The Drive with Steve Jaxon" and KRCB's "Second Row Center". He holds a B.A. in Theatre Arts from Sonoma State University where he graduated magna cum laude. He is an active member of the San Francisco Bay Area theatre community and has appeared in an average of three shows a year for the past several years. He has been seen on stage in roles as varied as Pozzo in Waiting for Godot to Mushnik in Little Shop of Horrors. He is also the Senior Arts and Entertainment Editor for The Worst Show on the Web, a popular podcast and entertainment site where his musings on the current state of film, television and pop culture can be found.View all posts by Harry Duke →