Walt Disney’s award-winning family musical “Beauty and the Beast” — based on the 1991 animated feature — opened on Broadway in 1994. It also opened at Ralston Community Theatre in Ralston, Nebraska, on July 12. It will run for three weekends at Ralston High School Theatre.
This is a beautiful production for the entire family. Under the direction of Todd Uhrmacher with musical direction by Chris Ebke and choreography by Debbie Massey-Schneweis. This is a spectacular production full of colorful glitz and beautiful music by Alan Menken, and lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice. This show is what Disney is all about. The costumes by Leah Skorupa-Mezger are colorful and gorgeous. The set with artistic drops was done by Joey Lorincz, whose lighting design is also great.
There are 44 top-notch local actresses and actors in the show. Leading the way as Belle is Aubri Devashrayee. She is a beautiful lady who has a super voice. There is one scene where the audience was overwhelmed when she came on stage in a beautiful gold gown. It glistened under the stage lights. She sang “A Change in Me” and “Is This Home?” The Beast is played very well by Jesse Black. His voice is strong, like a good Beast should be. He sings “How Long Must This Go On?” and “If I Can’t Love Her.”
The production numbers are incredible. “Be My Guest” — which has almost the entire cast joining in — is the real show-stopper of the first act. It is so uplifting and exuberant. “Human Again” is also a big number in the second act.
Another major character in the show is Gaston, played by Jonathan Berger. He is a hunter who wants to marry Belle. He is a man full of ego. Gaston believes he is God’s gift to women. He flexes his muscles to show his strength. He joins Belle in the first act in singing: “Me” and “Belle” with the help of ensemble and Maurice. Maurice is played well by Steve Ebke, and is Belle’s eccentric inventor father. Gaston’s sidekick is Le Fou, who is hilarious and played by Erick Micks.
The story is about a prince who upsets an enchantress who turns the handsome prince into the Beast. The enchantress also turns his staff into something other than human. The Beast can only change back when he finds true love. That is where Belle comes into the story. A red rose that slowly disintegrates shows that time is running out on the Beast.
The music is so powerful in the show Chris Ebke the musical director also conducts the 11- piece pit orchestra. They sound fantastic. Mrs. Potts — who is played well by Sarah Ebke — sings the most famous song of the show: “Beauty and the Beast.” She sings the lovely song as Belle and the Beast dance around the stage. Another staff member is “Lumiere,” who is played marvelously by David Ebke. He is a candelabra. The clock — “Cogsworth” — is played by Sean Graves. He is perfect as the character and has funny lines. The other member of the staff is Babette, the feather duster who is played by Amanda Murtaugh. We can’t forget about Chip, a boy teacup who is played by Bryan Fitzgerald.
The entire cast is remarkable.
This is a fantastic show with great music, dancing and singing. There is a remarkable number in the tavern where the townspeople are singing and clanking their tankards. It is precision choreography that is astounding.
There are many laughs throughout the show. The first act runs one hour and 15-minutes and, after a 20-minute intermission, the second act runs 50 minutes. The show is fast-paced and so enjoyable. After a standing ovation at the end, the large audience left with smiles on their faces and joy in their hearts. This is a really great show for everyone.
“Beauty and the Beast” runs two more weekends at Ralston High School. Curtain times are 7:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturdays and 2 p.m. on Sundays. Ticket prices are $20 for adults; $18 for seniors and students. Call the box office at 402-898-3545 for reservations. This is a must-see summer musical in the metro area. The theatre is at 8969 Park Drive. Go south on 84th Street in Omaha and turn west on Park Drive.