Going out on a limb here, "Beauty and the Beast" may just be one of the best shows Thunder Bay Theatre has ever done.
The lead roles all are perfectly cast from Amy Groen as the beautiful Belle to Jeffrey Mindock as the brooding beast to Rocky Cooper as the cocky brute, Gaston. In terms of singing, acting and nailing their characters, all three clearly demonstrate why they are professionals.
Plenty of the other 19 performers also make this a you-don't-want-to-miss-it kind of show. It's hard to believe Dylan Goike and Colin Marshall are still in high school. As the Lumiere and Cogsworth, these two guys seem made for their thoroughly humorous roles. Goike, in particular, has that extra something special that makes it virtually impossible not to keep your eyes trained on him anytime he's on stage.
Belle, played by Thunder Bay Theatre core company member Amy Groen, reads a classic book to the Beast, played by core company actor Jeffrey Mindock. The show runs for two more weeks.
Nickie Hilton, another TBT core company professional, gives another of her topnotch performances as Mrs. Potts. She's intentionally hindered by her teapot costume, but still manages to one-handedly scoot around her teacup of a son, Chip, played by the adorable Josh Meier.
Nick Hartman also gives it his all as LeFou, the cowtailing sidekick to Gaston. Hartman is downright amusing, and like the other aforementioned performers, seems like exactly the right person for the role. A couple of others who bring a fun touch to their characters are Rick Mesler as Maurice and Karisa Meier as Babette.
Besides the outstanding performances of the cast, which includes their vocals, the costumes for "Beauty and the Beast" are another major contributing factor to why the show is so good. Thanks to a $2,000 grant from the Community Foundation for Northeast Michigan, TBT was able to rent some of the more elaborate costumes that totally elevate the look of the production. For those costumes not covered by the grant, costumer Suni Travis was able to work her seamstress magic.
Not only did TBT Artistic Director Kevin Reams pull out the best in all his well-cast performers, but he also appears totally get the importance of costumes and set in making a production a complete experience for the audience. The theatre often is hampered by budget constraints, so the technical crew doesn't always have a wealth of resources with which to work. Reams and his company brainstormed about how best to convey such a well-known story of the magnitude of "Beauty and the Beast" in a confined space and do it inexpensively. They definitely got creative and it definitely worked.
A large projection screen, with appropriate detailing surrounding it, serves as the backdrop for cueing viewers into scene changes. In the opening minutes and then periodically throughout the remainder of the show, TBT also made nifty use of the screen for silhouettes of characters who carry the story along during some important moments.
The rest of the set needed to be fairly simple to allow space for the large cast to move about, but even so, its functional multi-levels, its mock stone floors and its walls draped in royal red fabric all fit the bill. So too, do the additional set pieces and props brought on and off the stage as needed to convey a tavern, the woods or a castle.
The musical numbers are wonderful and the cast provides a rich full sound on the group numbers. Who among us doesn't love the well-known, "Be Our Guest?" There also are many bright moments with solos or duet numbers, including the title song of "Beauty and the Beast" sung by Hilton as Mrs. Potts, and basically anything sung by Groen, Mindock or Cooper as Belle, the Beast and Gaston is spot on.
"Beauty and the Beast," based on the 1991 Disney film, may be construed as a children's show by many, but a lot of folks might otherwise miss out on a great theatre opportunity if they hold tightly to that view. The production runs for two more weeks with performances scheduled for Dec. 5-8 and Dec. 12-15. Show times are 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and 2 p.m Sunday.
For reservations, call the TBT box office at 354-2267.