Theater Review: BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (Desert Theatricals in Rancho Mirage)

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by Jason Mannino on March 18, 2023

in Theater-Regional


Desert Theatricals’ line-up for next season is exciting, but there was nothing more thrilling than being in an audience filled with awe-struck children to witness this magical production of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. It was a smash on Broadway in 1994 and it remains a smash in 2023, as corroborated by the viewers’ ebullient response last night’s sold-out opening at the Rancho Mirage Amphitheater (the City of Rancho Mirage is the presenting partner).

Most know the story of a narcissistic prince cursed to be a beast who must learn to see beauty in, perhaps, the darkest of places. He must also learn to love and be loved in return to break the spell, placed on him and his loyal servants. Belle is the beautiful but isolated heroine who learns to love the beast despite appearances and saves the day. It includes all the incredible songs from the film, written by the classic Disney duo of Alan Menken and Howard Ashman — with added lyrics for this show by Tim Rice since Ashman died of AIDS before the stage version materialized.

The cast, expertly led by Emily Rose Unnasch, a true triple-threat who has been delighting desert audiences for years (you may have seen her shine recently as Cassie in MTI’s thrilling production of A Chorus Line) and Joe Savant (who you may have recently seen as Emile De Beque in Desert Theatrical’s South Pacific) both bring depth and charm to the main characters. Savant’s Beast is sweet and funny, taught how to behave like a gentleman by the candlestick Lumiere (a luminescent performance by Kellen Green) and Cogsworth (Tom Warrick, offering expert comic timing).

The superb ensemble stopped the show multiple times with production numbers, including “Gaston”, which celebrates the fake heroisim of Belle’s paramour — led by Jim Hormel as Gaston and the hysterical Alex Compomizzi as his sidekick LeFou — and “Be Our Guest”, in which the staff entertains Belle with dinner, led with elan by Green. All of the principal performers nailed it: Don Savage as Belle’s dad, Maurice, Bella Healy as the french maid feather duster Babette, Beverly Crain as the teapot Mrs. Potts, Sam Rekuc as her son, a cup named Chip, Kelly McDaniel  as the Wardrobe Madame Bouche, and Bob Drake (D’Arque) execute their roles with true skill and enthusiasm.

Ray Limon and Joshua Carr run Desert Theatricals, producing every show. In addition, Limon consistently directs and choreographs each show and Carr is either music director, conductor (as in this production) or both. They both make a wonderful team that demonstrates their theatrical prowess providing performers in the local CV community and Southern California with opportunities to shine as they do in this production.

There are only a few seats left for tonight and tomorrow, so move fast to see this sparkling production. Desert Theatricals produces a season of three musicals that each run for one weekend in late winter and early spring. Their final production this season is Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, which runs April 14-16. I urge you to attend this show

photos by Carlos Mendoza

Beauty and the Beast
Desert Theatricals
Rancho Mirage Amphitheater, 71560 San Jacinto Dr, in Rancho Mirage
Sat & Sun at 7:30 (gates open at 5:30); chairs are provided
ends on March 19, 2023
for tickets, visit Desert Theatricals

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