IVINS — If there is one thing that Tuacahn Amphitheatre does well, it is spectacle, and if there is a musical that lends itself well to spectacle, it is Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. Originally on Broadway in 1994, this “tale as old as time” follows Belle, a restless young lady who dreams of more than what her life can provide, and through a mishap involving her father, ends up finding adventure in an enchanted castle that changes her life and her perspective as her fate becomes intertwined with a man who has been cursed to be a beast by an enchantress long ago. Based on the cartoon by the same name, with music written by the great Alan Menken and lyrics by the legends Howard Ashman and Tim Rice, it is a fan favorite and people pleaser.
The Tuacahn production is directed by Michael Heitzman, with music direction by Bryson Baumgartel, and choreography by Robbie Roby. UTBA has made it a practice to update on COVID protocol. Upon arrival at Tuacahn, there are many announcements stating that those who have not been vaccinated are encouraged to wear masks, but as Utah is no longer enforcing a mask mandate, and Tuacahn being an outdoor venue, there were little masks to be seen. As a patron, I will admit that if I had not been vaccinated, I would have felt uncomfortable.
Technically, this production was a masterpiece. The opening scene with the enchantress casting her spell was entrancing. Her costume looked like a stained glass window and the genius set design and open air arrangement allowed for the scene to be played out with her flying over the audience in order to cast her spell and then be gone again, leaving the beast doomed and the players to become the enchanted objects. Scenic designer Adam Koch, costume designer Ryan Moller, lighting designer Cory Pattak, and projection designer Steven Royal all worked together to pull this production together to a place that I have only seen a few other times on stage. Over the last few years, I have been quite impressed with how projections have incorporated themselves into the stage and how they have lifted the quality of stage productions; however, once in a while the way the projections flow with the live actors, the music, the costumes, and the trajectory of the show is so smooth that I can forget that they are projections at all and instead feel like it is a seamless transference. I have seen this transference three times, during King Kong on Broadway, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, and now at Beauty and the Beast at Tuacahn. It was mesmerizing. As for costuming, the visuals were so clever, especially with Madame de la Grande Bouche, played by Terra C. Macleod, and Belle’s final dress, with the extremely fine detailing on the rose on that dress.
It may seem strange to get this far in a review and have only read about the technical parts of the show, but to be honest, the technical parts are where this show rises to the top. Additionally, the live orchestra conducted by Bryson Baumgartel felt amazing as it echoed against the red rocks of the venue. It may be the backdrop of a year without live theatre, but with so many things not being live any more, a full orchestra and live dancing and singing while watching fireworks on stage and while hearing Lumiere played masterfully by Benjamin Howes say, “be our guest,” did make me smile and feel like I was 12 years old again. Watching the Beast, played by Nathaniel Hackmann, connect to Belle, played by Crystal Kellogg, over a book in a fantastic library of books because he took the time to give her something that mattered to her gave me the same feeling. Additionally, the choreography of the full cast during the song, “Gaston,” with the iconic dancing with beer glasses was stunning; choreographer Roby has gotten the whole cast to perform flawlessly.
The show was not without its down points. Gaston was played by an understudy, Regan Featherstone, who by all accounts did excellent under the circumstances, but it was clear that there were a few parts that were under rehearsed. Lefou, played by Elliot Peterson, was also slightly underwhelming in the role compared to some of the other characters. However, Mrs. Potts, played by Alexandra Melrose, was absolutely delightful and everything one would expect in a pot of tea, and Cogsworth, played by Phillip Taratula, was just exactly what one would think a wound up clock would be.
While there were small flaws here and there, as I said before, Tuacahn knows how to put on a beautiful spectacle. From a flying enchantress to a flying chandelier and to live animals and live music, the evening was magical from start to finish. If you see one show in St. George this summer, this show should probably be it.