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A beauty of a children's production

July 28, 2010|By Mary Burkin
(Tim Dietlein )

Mounting a good children's show can be like shooting an arrow into the air. Half a dozen factors have to fall into place to make that arrow hit its mark. You need experience, timing and talent. Good equipment helps. With their most recent Saturday morning offering, "Beauty and the Beast," the Glendale Centre Theatre has a hit.

The morning starts with the birthday roll call. Amazingly, there always seem to be a few more birthday boys and girls than the number of names called. Yet every one of them is rewarded with a squishy neon light toy. Very smart. The toys become part of the magical background during the between-scene blackouts, shining through the darkness like colorful bouncing stars.

When the lights come up, there's the happy feeling that you're safe in the hands of an expert ensemble. Songs move, jokes work, and characters stay in character.

As beauteous Belle, Samantha Claire is sincere and charming. And as the misunderstood Beast, Patrick McMahon is confident and appealing, even at his grumpiest. But as belle and as beastly as they may be, being a real meanie is just more fun.


Belle isn't the type to stamp her foot and yell, "Gimme, gimme, gimme," which leaves her sisters Ruby (Tracy McBurnett, truly a blond bombshell) and Sapphire (the wonderfully watchable Tosca Minotto) free to snort in delight at their own cleverness.

As the insufferably self-satisfied Gerrard, proud possessor of the award for Most Chest Hair Harvested in One Season, Derek Mahn couldn't be better. He even achieves a certain sweet innocence as he tenderly poses the Big Question to Belle — "So blah blah blah, when are we going to get married?'

Director Erin Villaverde has developed a fine eye for subtle detail. Gerrard can't just sit and listen to the sad tale of Belle's father (older pro Mario DiGregorio) — he has to sit on his bent over servant, that toady LaPew, (played by Derek Houck with more than a passing resemblance to a younger Wallace Shawn).

Best of all, the gently developing love story isn't rushed. After all, there are more than a few moms and dads in the audience who like that mushy stuff. This production is rated M.D. for moms and dads who want to enjoy the show as much as they want their kids to.

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