Saturday April 2nd, at 2:30 pm, I had the pleasure of seeing BEAUTY AND THE BEAST at the Downtown Cabaret Theater in Bridgeport, CT. Directed by Andrea Pane, this 1740s tale is reinterpreted by Phill Hill for a young and modern audience and features mainly 90s music.
Ashley DePascale, who has distinguished herself as a supporting actress in many previous performances, excels in the lead role of the central protagonist, Bella (short for Isabella).
Bella loves to read, shows sacrificial love for her mother, and has a heart that loves people for who they are. She stands out as a much freer person than the young women of her hometown.
Steve Belli is excellent in the role of the Beast. Through a spell, the Beast became physically mutated, seeking love and redemption, hopefully with Bella. Steve Belli plays the character in a way that makes him very likeable. The higher octave of him also makes the character less scary for children, which is essential in a show that has a young audience as a primary focus.
Andrea Pane shows yet another extraordinary side to his myriad acting talents as Chester, the self-centered and vain narcissist who has an unrequited crush on Bella and a sense of entitlement to her. Andrea Pane gives this character an 80s Californian surfer voice and vibe, which works perfectly!
Karen Hanley is convincing in the role of Mona, who is Bella’s very loving, if somewhat senile, mother. Karen Hanley knows the right level to push her character traits to optimal levels of humor and sympathy.
Corinne Marshall is in the double cast and shows her acting versatility in both roles. Her first role is as Donna, an extravagant city girl who has a crush on Chester, because having a crush on Chester is the socially “in” thing to do. Carly Jurman plays Brenda, the other bizarre city girl who is a rival for Chester’s affection. The comic dynamics between Corinne Marshall and Carly Jurman work perfectly in these roles, and also in each of the other roles of Miss Ottoman and Swiffer respectively. Corinne Marshall and Carly Jurman both maximize the quality of both their roles.
Cory Murphy delivers great comedy in her role as Linus, while also playing a strong lead in the other role of Loomin. Linus is Chester’s mate who tries to make fun of the local girls, but gets disgust from them in return, simply because he’s not Chester, the “inside” guy to have a crush on. Loomin is a human who has been mutated into candle form by the spell cast on the Beast and her castle. Loomin makes a strategy with Miss Ottoman and Swiffer to help bring Beauty and the Beast together, in a romantic way, so that if they fall in love with each other, the spell is broken and they will all become physically fully human again. once.
I never look to see what songs will be in the shows ahead of time. For the first time ever, however, in this show, based on the dialogue Chester presented to Bella about having to choose between him and the Beast, I successfully predicted what the next song would be just seconds before the music started.
For the first time since Covid, some of the cast members enter from the back of the house, through the audience, as Beast responds to Chester’s song with a large number of his own for Bella, excellently played by Steve Belli.
Who, if anyone, will choose Bella? Will she choose wisely? Come to the show to find out!
I highly recommend BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, which is expected to continue operating at the Downtown Cabaret Theater, in Bridgeport, CT until May 22nd. For timetables and tickets, consult the tickets.