Palo Alto Players’ ‘Beauty and the Beast’ shines

As a part of their 92nd season, titled “Full Speed ​​Ahead,” the Palo Alto Players — a nonprofit community theater organization hosted blocks away from Stanford at the Lucie Stern Theater — have been showing “Beauty and the Beast” since Nov. 4.

Director Patrick Klein, who is also the artistic director of the company, succeeded in creating an immersive fairytale and putting it to the stage. While there were some technical difficulties and faults, overall, the show surpassed expectations as actors individually and collaboratively excelled.

Each choice actors made with their scene partners — whether that be Gaston and Belle, Belle and the Beast or the castle furniture and staff — felt authentic to the source material yet unique to the actors. My favorite songs performed were the big ensemble acts: the Act I finale “Be Our Guest,” which featured a continuously changing set and gold streamers at the end, and “Gaston,” where performers juggled props and incorporated them into the dances.

Belle politely rejects the Beast’s invitation to dinner, to the dismay of the enchanted objects, Mrs. Potts (Juliet Green, left), Lumiere (Arjun Sheth ’19, left, behind), Cogsworth (Ben Chau-Chiu, left, middle) and Madame de la Grande Bouche (Rachel Michelberg, right). (Courtesy of Scott Lasky)

Individually, the actors impressed too. Belle, played by Sam Mills, had the right amount of kindness yet determination that any princess should have. Her sense of independence and maturity blossomed throughout this production, from her first solo in “Belle (Reprise)” to “A Change in Me” in Act II.

Gaston, who was portrayed by Frankie Mulcahy, was a lot more animated and exaggerated than others, but this portrayal contributed to the satirical nature of his character as a blatant misogynist. Belle and Gaston masterfully executed “Me,” in which Gaston is forcing a proposal onto Belle yet somehow manages to make everything about himself. The choreography rendered it as a game of cat and mouse, yet Belle demonstrated her control of the situation with the rejection of Gaston.

Belle’s dynamic with the Beast (played by understudy Aturo Montes on Nov. 11) was also more realistic within the limited run time of the show and the quick nature of a Disney tale. The Beast’s distance was at first off-putting, but that was the point. As the show progressed, his and Belle’s relationship became more affectionate and less temperamental. You can see their best moments together in “Something There,” where it is first evident they have feelings for each other, and “Beauty and the Beast,” where Belle accepts the dinner invitation and the two share an intimate dance.

All of the Beast’s enchanted objects excelled in their roles, including the uptight yet loyal Cogsworth (played by Ben Chau-Chiu) and the motherly and kind Mrs. Potts (Juliet Green). Chip (Da-Ni Lin) was adorable and was carted around on a table for the performance.

Arjun Sheth ’19 and Kaitlin Harold ’23 also were comedically outstanding as Lumiere and Babette, a candlestick and duster in a back-and-forth relationship. Sheth explained his excitement for their tango solo in “Be Our Guest” in an interview with The Daily. The solo earned cheers from the reactive and vocal audience.

A man in traditional European costume and with candles extending from his arms tangoes with a lady dressed in feathers.
Lumiere (Arjun Sheth ’19) dances the tango with Babette (Kaitlin Harold ’23). The Beast’s enchanted objects excelled in their roles. (Courtesy of Scott Lasky)

Alongside its spectacular aspects, the show had its faults. One was the blocking of “The Mob” in the finale, where the mob travels to the castle to attack the Beast’s palace. It might be the fault of the script, but the battle at the castle felt too fast-paced. One great part of the show was how it used aisles in the audience to make up for the small stage; many dramatic entrances and exits were done through these aisles. However, rather than make the mob disappear through the audience — ending the song with their travel to the castle — I would have liked to see some choreography of the attack.

Nevertheless, “Beauty and the Beast” was a delightful show to see and a great indoor activity for the winter. Venturing into the greater Palo Alto community, getting out of the Stanford theater bubble and absorbing the magic of the fairytale were undoubtedly worth it.

Editor’s Note: This article is a review and includes subjective thoughts, opinions and critiques.

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