Theatre review: Disney’s Beauty and the Beast by Torrance Theatre Company

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Theatre review: Disney’s Beauty and the Beast by Torrance Theatre Company

The ensemble, led by Jacob Asaro’s Lumiere, invite Brianna Liddi’s Belle to “be their guest!”

The ensemble, led by Jacob Asaro’s Lumiere, invite Brianna Liddi’s Belle to “be their guest!”

Photos by Miguel Elliot

The ensemble, led by Jacob Asaro’s Lumiere, invite Brianna Liddi’s Belle to “be their guest!”

Photos by Miguel Elliot

Photos by Miguel Elliot

The ensemble, led by Jacob Asaro’s Lumiere, invite Brianna Liddi’s Belle to “be their guest!”

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“They can sing! They can dance! After all, this is Torr-ance!” Forgive the pun, please. I couldn’t resist. Audiences familiar to Disney’s 1991 animated feature, 1994 stage adaptation, or even the more recent 2017 live action rendition will feel instantly at home at the James Armstrong Theater the moment Alan Menken’s Academy Award-winning score brings the stage to life.

For the handful of human beings somehow not aware of the plotline of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, the titular beauty is Belle (Brianna Liddi), a young book-crazy woman living with her father (Ruben Morales) in a provincial French town. After her father gets lost in the forest, Belle discovers he has been captured by the Beast (Christopher Tiernan), a snobbish prince transformed by a curse after displaying a lack of compassion.

Belle strikes a deal to trade places with her father—eventually befriending the Beast and his enchanted castle staff, a crew of household furnishings who are hopeful Belle is their way to become human again. It is through the unlikely connection between the beauty and her beast that a chance of ending Beast’s wretched curse once and for all is brought to light.

Mackenzie Hamilton and Elizabeth Bouton describe castle life to Brianna Liddi’s Belle.

The Torrance Theatre Company’s production leaves no detail overlooked to ensure the full makings of a Broadway experience. It is their 20th installment, after all! Under director Jim Hormel with musical leadership from Stephen Amundson and Bradley Hampton and the incredible expertise of Gia Jordahl, the 44 actors and 12-piece orchestra perform with sincere depth and laser-like precision, respectively.

Not to be left unmentioned is choreographer Niko Montelibano, who mastered one of the most difficult numbers of the musical, the tavern’s ode to Gaston. The dance makes use of the tavern’s steins in rhythmic synchronicity. The technique is impressive, but risky, for one stein out of line becomes an obvious auditory mistake. And yet, with Montelibano’s coaching, the ensemble nails it to perfection.

Acting standouts include Matt Garber, a comedic tour de force who as bumbling henchman Lefou played off of Jayson Ziegenhagen’s Gaston effortlessly. Jacob Asaro’s Lumiere exhibited unbelievable balance—what with maintaining the poise of a candelabra for an excruciating amount of time while singing and pulling off a polished French accent. Elizabeth Bouton’s Mrs. Potts embodies the sweetness of Angela Lansbury’s original character without becoming overly saccharine. And Mackenzie Hamilton’s Madame La Grande Bouche paced around in a wardrobe costume with stunning operatic trills and sassy boldness.

Of course, it would be criminal not to highlight the undeniable chemistry between leads Liddi and Tiernan. Liddi’s speaking parts were reminiscent of Judy Garland’s Dorothy Gale with singing vocals rivaling her character’s originator. Worthy of applause is Tiernan’s refusal to be overly menacing as the Beast, an excellent display of restraint.

Another highlight difficult to ignore is what everyone wore. Beauty and the Beast is probably an extremely difficult show to costume, considering they are period garments, but also ones requiring bold colors and prints to give them a sort of Disney flair. Costume designer Bradley Allen Lock is no stranger to such a daunting task. Lock recently designed a vibrantly camp period costume for Manila Luzon during her run on RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars’ fourth season, a piece that was praised by judges and viewers alike. Just see his costume for Hamilton’s Wardrobe to be convinced.

Beauty and the Beast has endured the test of time after 28 years because of its positive message—to look beyond the surface in the hearts of others. As such, it has been a family favorite for decades. This production continues the tradition well as a heartwarming and enjoyable family experience.

And in the severely unlikely event the musical itself does not completely satisfy, additional interactive perks are available to attendees. Children in costume are permitted to join Belle and her prince on stage for a group photo after every performance. Lastly, Aug. 23 is Beauty and the Beast Bounding Night—a chance for patrons to dress as any character from the show using only modern street clothes as the inspiration. Torrance Theatre Company is providing prizes to the best “bounders.”

Disney’s Beauty and the Beast runs until Aug. 24 at the James Armstrong Theater, 3330 Civic Center Drive in Torrance, 90503. Tickets are on sale for $40 with discounts available for children and four-packs. Online ticketing is available at torrancetheatrecompany.com. The theater’s box office can be reached at (310) 781-7171.