Reviewed by Suzanne Angeo (member, American Theatre Critics Association)
and Greg Angeo (Member Emeritus, San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle)
Photos courtesy of Stagecrafters
Fun and Fanciful “Beast Jr” at the Baldwin Theatre
What’s not to love about magic, singing teapots and a happy ending? Stagecrafters Youth Theatre presents “Beauty and the Beast Jr”, a shorter, student-production version of the Broadway musical based on Disney’s Oscar-winning 1991 movie. The film, in turn, was based on a beloved 18th-century French fairy tale. The “Junior” version has most of the familiar songs, and an abbreviated running time. The original Broadway musical was a big hit with audiences, beginning its 13-year run on Broadway in April 1994.
The fairy story’s enduring message: Judging someone for their outward looks is a mistake; you must wait and see who they really are inside. A nasty but handsome prince learns this the hard way when he is transformed into an ugly Beast by an enchantress. Love must break the spell, but who can love him now? Surely not Belle, the most beautiful (and quirky) girl in the village?
This presentation at the Baldwin is a student effort, with the cast and crew drawn from local K-12 schools, so it’s easy to overlook technical mishaps and other performance blips that happen along the way.
Lulu Bushman steals the show in the lead role of Belle, with a lovely voice and commanding stage presence. Other standouts include Liam Ferris offering a sincere and sympathetic Beast, Nick Easterling as the charming villain Gaston, and Rocco Morrow as his pint-sized sidekick LeFou. There’s raw talent on display here, with some of these kids surely going on to professional stage careers. And they should all be proud of their remarkable achievement in creating the formidable costumes and set. Not to mention the ensemble cast of 37, who harmonizes beautifully together.
There are some rough spots in staging (especially crowd scenes) but director Jody Florkowski’s work with the young cast is very commendable as he harnesses that infectious youthful energy into a cohesive form.
Stagecrafters Youth Theatre was founded in 1972 to offer children from 8 to 18 the experience of working and training in a real, working theatre. Anyone who was involved in the class play in school will envy this cast and crew for the wonderful venue they have at their disposal. The Baldwin’s professional lighting, sound and stage are a great training ground for young students of the theatre arts.
The air fairly crackles with anticipation just before the show begins, as the many small children in the audience are eager to see what, for many, is their first live performance. There’s hearty applause and squeals of delight after each musical number, as testament to their appreciation.
When: Now through July 22, 2018
7:00 p.m. Fridays & Saturdays
2:00 p.m. Saturdays & Sundays
Tickets $8 to $14
Where: Baldwin Theatre, 2nd Stage (upstairs)
415 S. Lafayette
Royal Oak, MI 48067