Theater

Has the tale of “Beauty and the Beast” been adapted numerous times over the centuries, finally achieving pop culture ubiquity with Disney’s animated feature in 1991, which later became a musical on Broadway in the following years?

The song was sung exceptionally well with an abundance of emotion. Even the minor character seemed like a meticulously created creation. The full-cast song-and-dance numbers were performed on grandly appointed sets, throwing back to the high-energy days. I mean that in a very good way. You might mistake it for a much older musical, but if you catch the new production put together by the Ordway Center in St. Paul, you will see.

Yes, this includes all national touring productions, and at least sometime in the last decade… Since I’ve experienced it, the finest piece of musical theater that is which, times, is the first homegrown production from Ordway’s that you’ll get.

Rajane Katurah sings the role of Belle in the Ordway
Rajane Katurah plays Belle in the Ordway’s production of “Beauty and the Beast.” (Courtesy of Dan Norman)

Additionally, he recruited director Michael Heitzman and choreographer Robbie Roby. However, he not only inquired about the possibility of borrowing the spectacular three-tiered set (designed by Adam Koch and Steven Royal) from the Ordway. This request was made because Rod Kaats, who heads the theatrical department at the Ordway, had watched a production of it during the summer of 2021. It was during this experience that Rod Kaats, the head of the Ordway’s theatrical division, was truly amazed by this rendition of the musical composed by Alan Menken, Howard Ashman, and Tim Rice.

Berkeley, known for his surreal sensibilities in the films of the 1930s and 1940s, channels those sensibilities in “Our Top Be Guest,” a deliciously over-the-top and surreal waltz in a beer hall where tankards of beer are tapped by people who need shoes. The production of “Gaston” staged by Roby has clearly left the audience awestruck, with long and loud ovations each night. Heitzman has evidently convinced a talented cast to buy into his vision, with their attention to detail and unflagging enthusiasm proving to be terrific choices.

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On stage, a man in a period costume stands with his arms crossed as three women with anxious expressions hang onto his arms and one of his legs.
Regan Featherstone as Gaston in the Ordway’s production of “Beauty and the Beast” fends off female admirers, Dayle Theisen, left, Taylor Colleton and Andrea Mislan, bottom. (Courtesy of Dan Norman)

The romance at the center of the story overshadows the spectacle completely. Katurah Rajane is always sunny and effervescent. Nathaniel Hackmann, as the Beast, proves his grand voice. Jamecia Bennett shows off her ample pipes with the same heart-swelling ballad. You can expect a kind of R&B flair from the title tune, as it is sung by a member of the Minneapolis-based vocal group Blackness. Mrs. Potts, the cook of the house, lends a certain kind of R&B flair to the title tune as well. Katurah Rajane, as Belle, is always sunny and effervescent, confined to the castle of the cursed prince, who is a wild boar and a hybrid of a ram and a human.

Moller Ryan quickly switches out the eye-catching costumes of most of the cast, but there isn’t a weak link in the 34 of them. Lefou, Benson Rush, and Gaston Featherstone’s Regan are vividly drawn as Belle’s self-centered rival and slapstick sidekick. In an attempt to push the romance forward, Taratula Phillip and Wojtanowicz Max join her as a comical trio of servants.

A man dressed in a furry costume, with a dressy burgundy vest and gray shirt, kneels down with his arm up toward the sky. He looks upset.
Nathaniel Hackmann plays the Beast in the Ordway’s production of “Beauty and the Beast.” (Courtesy of Dan Norman)

While the orchestra, under the direction of Santa Elise, produces one of the most memorable productions of 2022, sometimes there can be a small issue that’s worth quibbling about – the lyrics being lost for singers. However, audio engineers could definitely pull them into better balance with the great sounds.

Beauty and the Beast

When: Until December 31st.

Where: Ordway Music Theater, located at 345 Washington St., St. Paul.

Tickets are obtainable for a variety of costs, varying from $143.50 to $35.50, and can be acquired either by dialing 651-224-4222 or by exploring Ordway.Org.

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Capsule: A thrilling homage to a time when musicals were primarily focused on the wow factor.

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