Monday, July 18, 2016

In the Wings Beauty and the Beast Delights Children of All Ages

Flashback to 1991. I am in the backseat of my mom's car singing (ok, ok...screeching) to the Beauty and the Beast soundtrack. I knew every single word, and would "perform" it for my friends and fellow passengers. I loved Belle. Belle was like me: brown hair, a bit odd, and an intellectual who liked books.

Beauty and the Beast has always been my favorite Disney movie, and will likely always be my favorite, which is why I was thrilled when In the Wings Productions, a Staten Island, New York-based theater company, announced that it would be their summer production.

On Friday evening, I had the pleasure of attending opening night at Snug Harbor Music Hall. I was delighted to see that the orchestra had not one empty seat; the packed house was deserved given the quality production we enjoyed.

Maria Elena Rumayor takes the stage as Belle. (Photo credit: Nicholas Buchholz)

The Cast

While the entire cast was fabulous, Maria Elena Rumayor was absolutely glowing as Belle. She commanded the stage, flowing from scene to scene without missing a beat. Belle isn't an easy role to play - she goes from sweet, to stubborn to fierce, and Rumayor handled each personality splendidly. 

Perhaps my favorite moment of Beauty and the Beast is when Belle turns down Gaston's proposal and declares her wishes for adventure, and to escape the small town cycle. In that moment Rumayor gave me goosebumps, and I'm so glad the theater company filmed it for Instagram.


Craig Kwasnicki as Gaston, with the "silly girls."
(Photo credit Nicholas Bucholz) 
The two male leads, Gaston (played by Craig Kwasnicki) and the Beast (played by Anthony Massa) were strong and confident. They had me chuckling throughout the production, with Gaston fawning over a clearly uninterested Belle, and the Beast trying oh so hard to learn manners.

It is rare, with a cast this large, to have memorable performances from supporting cast, but this production had many unique and memorable roles. Lumiere, Mrs. Pots and Cogsworth (James McKeon, Jenny Kelly and John Patrick) transported the audience to the Beast's Castle and tugged at the heart strings during the song Human Again, a number unfortunately cut from the animated feature but shines on stage. And little VJ Scarpaci was adorable all nestled in the his serving cart as Chip.

In a surprisingly hilarious performance, Madame de la Grande Bouche (a.k.a. "The Wardrobe) Emily Bodkin hit the high notes in her stories about her past performances.

Lefou, played by Ryan Taylor, lead the charge in one of the best numbers of the night, "Gaston." The number included a terrific dance number where the cast knocked their beer mugs. (I can only assume they were drinking Lefou's Brew!)

Fabulous staging by Director Joseph Lento and choreography by Tanya Glassman. (Photo credit: Nicholas Buchholz)

Show Stopping Numbers

In addition to "Gaston," there were several numbers that brought the audience to their feet. 

I personally was thrilled to hear one of my favorite songs, "No Matter What," a gorgeous father/daughter anthem in the first act. 

James McKeon as Lumiere led "Be Our Guest," which featured so many cast members I'm not quite sure how they all fit on the Snug Harbor stage. The gorgeous costumes and set truly shine in this number, the terrific direction by Joseph Lento was particularly apparent in this scene. 

 The cast of Beauty and the Beast sings "Be Our Guest" (Photo credit: Nicholas Buchholz)

I was particularly emotional during the title song, "Beauty and the Beast," sung sweetly by Jenny Kelly, was perfectly touching. During the second act, during the battle scenes, the music direction by Michael Pinto was strong and impactful.

Go See Beauty and the Beast

I'm so happy to share this review with you today because you still have plenty of time to go get tickets for the remaining four performances next weekend. 

If you haven't been to Snug Harbor Cultural Center and Botanical Gardens, you should certainly plan a visit to see the campus prior to the show. It is the perfect Staten Island day.  Tickets range from $20-$30, so you won't break the bank and you'll get a high quality performance. 

Here are the upcoming performances: 
Friday, July 22 at 8pm
Saturday, July 23 at 12pm and 7pm
Sunday, July 24 at 2pm

To purchase tickets:

Meet Belle:
You can have breakfast with Belle prior to Saturday's performance. 
(Photo credit: Nicholas Buchholz)

*Note: I was given two tickets in exchange for my honest review of the production. All thoughts are my own.


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