By Mary Boyle
It was 1991 when Disney released their 30th animated feature film, Beauty and the Beast, based on an 18th Century French Fairy Tale. To say it was a success is an understatement: it was the first animated film to be nominated for an Academy Award, and it won for Best Original Score and Best Original Song. It was also the first of Disney's animated films to be adapted into a Broadway Musical, in 1994. Now that the first fans have children of their own, there's been a renaissance of the tale, which is widely considered to be one of Disney's best. Earlier this year, a live-action film was released, staring Emma Watson, and performances of the Broadway Musical, as well as other versions of the tale, are at an all time high, which you can experience for yourself as Sunset Playhouse presents Disney's Beauty and the Beast.
Directed and choreographed by Karl Miller, who makes his directorial debut at Sunset Playhouse, where he recently returned after a 36 year absence, the Broadway Musical of Beauty and the Beast is nearly identical to the animated film, but with additional songs added to round it out. Sephanie Staszak is a lovely Belle with a lovely voice, looking for something more than her "provincial town," where the townspeople think her odd for reading so much, and where she is constantly harassed by the pigheaded Gaston, who is played wonderfully by Tim Albrechtson. When Belle's father, Maurice (Tom Marks), is lost in the woods, Belle finds him in an enchanted castle, where he is being held prisoner by a Beast (Keith R. Smith). Belle offers herself in exchange for her father's freedom, and the mysteries of the castle and its inhabitants, including a candelabra named Lumiere (Eric Welch), a clock named Cogsworth (Corey Richards), a teapot named Mrs Potts (Marcee Doherty-Elst), and her son, Chip (Agrim Cincotta/John Batory). Gaston isn't about to let Belle go so easily, though, and he and his sidekick, Lefou (Jim Donaldson) hatch a terrible plan to make sure that Belle will consent to be his bride.
The Sunset Playhouse is the first theater in the state of Wisconsin to be built entirely by a community theater group and, over the past sixty years, the building has grown to reflect the love of the community that supports it. Easy to access, with plenty of parking, the Sunset's intimate and comfortable Furlan Auditorim seats 299, and is a great community theatre venue. Fans of Beauty and the Beast, both young and old, will enjoy this production. Gaston, Lefou, Lumiere, and Cogsworth, in particular, are excellently cast, and the live music from a small orchestra, directed by Mark Mrozek, contributes greatly to the magic. Keep an eye out for Madame de la Grande Bouche, played by Sharon Tyler—she could easily be a show-stealer.
Beauty and the Beast runs through December 23rd at the Sunset Playhouse, located at 800 Elm Grove Road in Elm Grove, WI. Tickets can be purchased by calling (414) 782-4430, or online at www.sunsetplayhouse.com. View Sunset's 2017/18 Season here, including Beauty and the Beast, Jr.; Our Favorite Things, a tribute to Julie Andrews; and Rockin' the New Year: Concert & Party!
About Sunset Playhouse
Over the past 60 years, Sunset has benefitted from the leadership of Ian Dobbie, Alan Furlan, Michael Spicer, Thomas Somerville, Michael Duncan, Mark Salentine, Jonathan West, Diana Alioto, and our current Artistic Director, Nancy Visintainer-Armstrong. The theater’s staff consists of an Education Director, Technical Director, Business Manager/Volunteer Coordinator, Administrative Assistant, Box Office Manager, Box Office Associates, and Theater Technicians. In addition, Sunset benefits from a large pool of talented and dedicated volunteers who work in conjunction with these professionals and are essential to the on-going success of the Playhouse. Sunset is governed by a Board of Directors elected by the membership.
Sunset produces eight Furlan Auditorium Productions per season consisting of comedies, mysteries, musicals, and dramas. The Playhouse is also home to three professional series–Musical MainStage Concert Series, with six concerts each season, a six-show cabaret series titled SideNotes Cabaret Series, and a three-show children’s series called Bug in a Rug.