In the darkness, a single rose was illuminated. As the music began and villagers whirled onstage, the stage became enchanted. Mariemont High School’s production of Beauty and the Beast brought whimsy and new energy to this “tale as old as time.”
After the success of the 1991 film “Beauty and the Beast,” Alan Menken, Howard Ashman and Tim Rice brought this iconic story to Broadway in 1994. The reclusive Beast and his servants have been transfigured by a spell that is gradually sapping their humanity. The only way to break the curse is to both give and receive true love. Hope arrives in the form of the bookish but beautiful Belle, who agrees to reside in the castle in exchange for her father’s freedom. But can love blossom in such a harsh clime, with the Beast’s temper and the attentions of the boorish Gaston in its way?
The clear voice and subdued sweetness of Lauren Renner (Belle) grounded the show in warmth. Her heartfelt performances of “Is This Home?” and “A Change in Me” embodied the charm of her character and reminded the audience why Belle is one of the most beloved Disney princesses. Gavin Smith (Beast) complemented her performance with his gruffness and variance of emotion.
Cole Stewart’s portrayal of the fussy Cogsworth brought riotous laughter throughout the show. His over-the-top physicality contributed to the richness of every scene—even without speaking, he could be seen gesticulating frantically and reacting in the background. Whether chasing a stray Silly Girl across the stage in a flurry of flapping limbs, cackling at his own bad puns, Stewart stole the show.
The maternal warmth of Hunter Theirs (Mrs. Potts) cultivated sweet moments in her interactions with Belle, Chip, and the other objects. Her strong voice and crisp diction made the theme song “Beauty and the Beast” a truly magical moment. Santi Martinez (Lumiere) and Chloe Young (Babette) positively sparkled in their flirtations and faux-French accents. A sense of camaraderie prevailed among all of the objects, bringing delight.
Every time the Silly Girls (Catherine Donahue , Gracie Fitzgerald , and Audrey Helmrich ) arrived in a flutter of satin and cacophony of squeals, their antics inspired a similar giddiness. The Silly Girls’ rapturous glances and persistent attempts to stroke Gaston’s biceps even during the dramatic “Mob Song” were a testament to their dedication to character.
The entire cast navigated a large volume of musical numbers, tricky costume changes, and limited stage space with evident ease. Their enthusiasm was infections, and their verve carried from the mug-clinking “Gaston” to the dark energy of the “Mob Song.”
Mariemont High School’s production transfixed the audience with its merry spell, a reminder of the beauty of believing in fairy tales.