LITTLE FALLS -- At times during the Hole in the Day Players' production of "Disney's Beauty and the Beast," the curtain parts on more than 20 performers sharing the stage simultaneously. At one point, the number approaches 50, with actors singing and dancing in the aisles.
But director Jason Schommer -- who is dedicating the play to his late costume-designer mother, Pat Schommer-Kapsner -- shepherded the biggest chore before the curtain rose. According to the program, 20 constructors and decorators labored on the sets.
The hard work certainly showed during the July 28 opening performance (the play continues with four more shows Thursday-Saturday in Little Falls).
The stage-length set of the Beast's castle is a masterpiece, with five stairways, two levels and real-looking stonework.
The movable village and forest sets are also wondrous; the crew somehow managed to create a flawless-looking tree trunk, something that's notoriously difficult to fabricate.
A narrator introduced the show with, "Welcome ladies, gentlemen and especially children," but the two-hour-and-45-minute running time might be too long for children (although, granted, some might have longer attention spans than I do). However, it's done well enough that you won't be looking at your watch. Besides, there is a walking, talking clock right up there on stage; more on that in a minute.
Although it's tough to steal scenes from scenery like this, Erin Fogle and Randy Warzecha come close as villager Belle and her would-be suitor, Gaston. Eventually, Belle must decide between the adoring blowhard and the Beast (Tony Mason), a wolf-like man who holds her prisoner while dispatching her father to the mercy of the woods. (Nice options. If you ask me, Belle should get out more. Maybe try an Internet dating service or something.)
The leads (indeed, most of the cast) have great voices -- Warzecha excels on the hilariously arrogant Gaston's personal theme song (a shortened version of the play probably would excise this song, and despite my misgivings about the length, I admit that would be a shame). Fogle, with her auditorium-filling facial expressions, masters the melodramatic style of acting.
The crew made an interesting sound choice by apparently placing the Beast's microphone inside his mask; the echoing sound effect is appropriate. But oddly, Mason has a classic singing voice. You'd think the Beast would have more of a growl.
If you go
What: "Disney's Beauty and the Beast"
Presented by: Hole in the Day Players
When: 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and 2 p.m. Saturday
Where: Martin Auditorium, Little Falls High School
Tickets: $10 (adults), $8 (children/students/seniors)
Phone: (320) 632-9106
The costumes from the Costume Holiday House of Ohio are fittingly bizarre. Among the odd characters inhabiting the Beast's castle are a human candle holder (Bob Thesing, sporting an amusing French accent), teapot (Julie Slettom, who nails the title song made famous by Angela Lansbury in the Disney movie), clock (Jim Norwood), feather duster (Tammy Zimmerman) and wardrobe (Mary Schmidt) -- as you'd expect, the play has fun with the multiple meanings of "drawers."
The script is the weak point of "Beauty and the Beast." It begins with a young man rejecting an ugly woman. She then removes a costume to reveal she is an attractive young lady and curses him with his Beast visage.
That's an interesting launching pad for a yarn (although probably too harsh of a punishment for one moment of oafishness). But the story falls apart logically and thematically. It's not enough that the Beast grows to love Belle, the teapot explains: "She must love him in return for the spell to be broken." Whatever happened to, "What's in your heart is all that matters"?
Then again, this is a play where we trust a mutant teapot to explain stuff.
Frankly, most theater-goers won't give a second thought to the spell's inconsistent moral stance. They'll be too busy enjoying sequences such as the elaborately choreographed "Be Our Guest," fronted by the candle holder and featuring dancing by plates, silverware, napkins and salt and pepper shakers. During that number, even I wasn't checking the time.
JOHN HANSEN, entertainment editor, can be reached at email@example.com or 855-5863.
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