A beautiful not beastly rendition of a Disney class

Lyric Theatre turned out a compelling version of what is fast becoming a Disney stage classic, Beauty and the Beast. The good news? Even the Beast was beautiful, and everyone went home (after having cheered himself/herself hoarse) with a warm spot in their collective hearts and the remains of a tear drying in the corner of their eyes. For once, there was an abundance of fine voices among the cast members, and it sure makes a difference with the overall effect of the show. The men in particular sang well, with Leigh Guptill, Joe Garofalo, Justin Rowe performing the roles of Gaston, Maurice and Beast, respectively. On the womens side, Linda Brownell, Kelly Goyette, and Kate Whalen did the honors, and they were Mrs. Potts, Madame de la Grande Bouche and Belle, respectively. The ensemble did particularly well throughout the evening, and got deserved ringing applause after the number Be Our Guest in the first act and once again in the second act for Human Again. The music, while effective, never rose to any particularly ascendent peak of inspiration, but, grizzled old toff that I am, neither the music or the smoke machine caused me to clear my throat several times. Everyone, even critics, like to believe in fairy tales, you know they just dont applaud quite so frequently as the rest and they beat a hasty retreat while the applause is still rolling out in waves. The acting had great merit most of the time, and John Gravel and Mike Ravey particularly distinguished themselves as Lumiere and Cogsworth. I also noted the omnipresence of Ethan Tischler of St. George, CVUs KoKo last fall. I rather suspect he has larger roles in the future, because he acquitted himself so well in this one. The mechanics of the show were, as usual, up to the standards that we have come to expect of Lyric Theatre productions. Costuming, lighting, and all of the tech end of the show was in good health on opening night. The pit band played well and mostly in tune under the baton of Martin Hain. Sara McDonald and Linda Whalen shared honors as artistic director and production supervisor, backed by numerous other people. I noticed that one show that wasnt on the list of possible shows for future consideration by Lyric was Lil' Abner, which is hard to believe given the presence of Guptill on stage. Maybe they could add it, but they probably won't. This was truly a wholesome show, and one that engaged every portion of the audience. I cant imagine anyones having left the performance without feeling a little better at least until s/he got out front and had to get her/his car out of a parking lot. But, hey! How long is joy supposed to last, anyway? Burlington resident Dan Wolfe observes and critiques the local arts scene for the Times Sentinel. His column appears weekly.

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