OGDEN — Ever since the musical adaptation of Disney’s classic film Beauty and the Beast premiered on Broadway in 1994 there has been a mixed response from the musical theatre community. Many, including myself, love the adaptation and think it is one of Disney Theatrical’s best, if not the best. While others decry it as the beginning of turning Broadway into an amusement park full of corporate shows over art. There certainly have been Disney shows I did not enjoy, but perhaps it is influenced by nostalgia. I have always really loved the Beauty and the Beast adaptation and the recent production at Terrace Plaza is no exception. In fact, it may be the best overall show I’ve ever seen at this particular playhouse.

Show closes September 16, 2023.

Obviously what makes Beauty and the Beast work as well as it does is the incredibly strong foundation set for it by the animated film. With music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice with a book by Linda Woolverton it is so easy to see the huge amount of heart that went into the original story. Ashman wrote the lyrics on his deathbed and it is easy to see how a story about redemption and seeing the good in others would ring true at the end of one’s life. Indeed the ending of the animated film is dedicated to Ashman with the words: “to our friend, Howard, who gave a mermaid her voice and a beast his soul, we will be forever grateful.” I think all of us who love this story are grateful for Ashman and his beautiful gift to the world.

One of the best parts of seeing a show at Terrace Plaza is the strong sense of community spirit they always have and Beauty and the Beast is no exception. Director Carol Madsen has taken the large cast and ensured a sense of fun in every scene. She fills the stage with an energetic ensemble in as many scenes as possible and every character from Lumiere to Babette are loaded with humor and pizazz.

My favorite performer of the night was Drew Saddler as Gaston. He had just the right amount of bravado and self-congratulatory moxie to sell every line. It’s hard to make lines I’ve been reciting my whole life feel fresh and original, but that’s what he did. Even though he is the villain, I found myself anxious for him to get back on stage. He was that funny.

Kaden Bundy is also excellent as Beast (although his Beast outfit looked more like a guy with curly hair and 2 horns than a horrific creature, but I was fine with it.) I enjoyed him most when he was playing Beast as sympathetic and endearing more than angry and harsh. Both “If I Can’t Love Her” and the reprise were highlights of the show and performed with passion by Bundy.

He also has good chemistry with Jordyn Tracy who plays Belle. Her singing was decent particularly for “Home” and its reprise but the men were the bigger standouts in this particular production.

My favorite of the female performers is Ashlee Giblette as Babette. Like Saddler as Gaston, she brought out all the humor she could from every scene, and made me laugh as she flirted with Spencer Stevens‘ Lumier. April Beardall is good as Mrs Potts but her costume looked more like a pin cushion than a teapot (the lone costume miss of the night.)

I did, however, love other parts of the costume team’s work. One of my favorites was Babette’s dress with its sparkly top that went into a feathery mermaid cut at the bottom. It seemed to help Giblette get into character and looked fantastic on her. The iconic yellow dress for the “Beauty and the Beast” number also looked big and exactly what fans of the movie will want for that scene. They also always do a tremendous job with wigs/hair design at Terrace Plaza with Jamila Lowe taking over that responsibility.

The sets by JD Madsen and Cynthia Nicholson Klumpp were also very impressive with large 3 sided panels of stained glass that could be flipped around for whatever scene is needed (one side had the town, another castle or forest etc.)

Because I enjoyed Saddler’s take on Gaston so much, “Gaston” probably was my favorite of the night. They filled the stage with practically the entire cast all giving a toast to the great Gaston. It was a hoot. “The Mob Song” was also effective as a contrast to the jovial town spirit we saw earlier in the play, and the fight choreography by Nick Balaich was immersive and convincing.

There are nitpicks I could make with Beauty and the Beast at Terrace Plaza. It’s not a Broadway or equity level production but I do appreciate when everyone is trying their best in a show I love. When that happens the foibles of community theatre become part of the show’s charm not a detriment. There are some actors that are more natural than others. Some singing which was flawed but nothing that seriously hindered my enjoyment. This is the kind of show that would make a great introduction to musical theatre for small children. There were even a number of little girls dressed up in Belle yellow dresses, which was really cute. If you can get out to Terrace Plaza to see this delightful classic, I highly recommend it.

Beauty and the Beast plays at Terrace Plaza Playhouse 99 East 4700 South Washington Terrace, Utah on Mondays, Fridays, and Saturdays August 4 through September 16, 2023 at 7:30 PM. Tickets are $13-$20.  For more information, visit terraceplazaplayhouse.com