Theater Review: DISNEY’S BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (Nocturne Theatre in Glendale)

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by William C. on May 11, 2024

in Theater-Los Angeles


In Nocturn Theater‘s inaugural season, the company embarked on a daring journey, presenting some of Broadway’s most iconic works. From Into the Woods to Jekyll and Hyde, this young theater company is carving its own path with a unique blend of theatrical storytelling, variety-show style entertainment, and cinematic character design. For Mother’s Day weekend, they unveiled their first family-oriented show, Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, directed by Justin Meyer. With its distinct approach, this production is a testament to Nocturne’s fearless and ambitious spirit.

The Cast of Beauty and the Beast

A valiant effort is made by Meyer2Meyer Entertainment, and their formula brings this beloved story life in a well-raked theater-in-the-round in Glendale. It’s an earnest approach to storytelling which finds new foci to the tale as old as time. In a scrappy mid-size production house like this, audiences are usually keen to forgive the exposed ceiling wires, inexpensive lighting instruments, iffy sound design, and the noise of potato chip crunches and plastic bag ruffling. This is popcorn theater, which is an aesthetic all its own. Nocturne still has a way to go before it matures and becomes a great storytelling hub (especially with the sound issues — patrons included), but there are some wonderful workings here, so I can’t write off this production. I have to tip my hat to the many talents on display.

Jack Bernaz as Maurice

Originally La Belle et la Bête, a fairy tale written in 1740 by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve, variations of the story abound. Jean Cocteau’s 1946 film is rapturous, and also inspired the 1991 blockbuster animated film. In 1994, Linda Woolverton adapted her screenplay for what would be Disney’s first foray on Broadway. All of Alan Menken and Howard Ashman‘s songs were retained, with lyricist Tim Rice and Menken adding new tunes, since Ashman — one of our greatest storytellers — succumbed to AIDS.

An arrogant young prince and his castle’s servants fall under the spell of a wicked enchantress, who turns him into the hideous Beast until he learns to love and be loved in return. The spirited, headstrong village girl Belle, despising her provincial life and the haughty Gaston who pursues her with the aid of his lackey LeFou, enters the Beast’s castle after he imprisons her father Maurice. With the help of his enchanted servants, including the matronly Mrs. Potts (a teapot), the imperious Cogsworth (a clock) and the charming hospitable Lumiere (a candlestick), Belle begins to draw the cold-hearted Beast out of his isolation.

Andreas Pantazis as The Beast

As Belle, Alyssa Rafael is absolutely incredible. Her vocal control and mannerisms bring this beloved Disney princess to life. Every last note deserved jubilant applause. Andreas Pantazis has really done his movement work as the Beast; not only is his animal-like gait and sitting position well-crafted, but his ability to belt out sorrowful tunes behind that mask is a Herculean-worthy feat. Not once did I hear him struggle for breath between the movements and the singing.

Rachel Franke as Lumiere

As LeFou, Thomas Polk easily steals the show. His comedic timing is tight, and his stage presence is delightful. Rachel Franke as Lumiere and Wesley Morrow as Cogsworth make quite a pair. Their banter is quick, and their chemistry is on point. But it is Tanya Cyr‘s costumes that are easily the best part of the production (Jay Michael Roberts‘ set and Eric Marsh’s lighting ain’t no slouches, either). Cogsworth’s clock face outfit is intricate and well-built, as is Lumiere’s incredible candle headpiece. I imagine the actors must have been delighted to put on one of these beautiful creations. Bravo to the whole wardrobe team. The amount of costumes built is astonishing.

Wesley Morrow as Cogsworth

But that’s not all. This is, after all, a show, and the dancing by the company is just jaw-droppingly good. With choreography by Ernie Peiffer, Michalis Schinas and Melissa Meyer, Jordan Tayler (Tavern Master), Michaelis Schnas (Magic Mirror), Danielle Johnson (Enchantress), and Frances Parsons (Babette) all absolutely slay. Between their aerial jumps, splits, and pirouettes, the dance numbers are an absolute delight. And under Nolan Monsibay’s music direction, did they sound fantastic as an ensemble as well? In the future, you will say “I knew them when…” as these handsome double- and triple-threats head for Broadway.

The Cast

So, there you go, kids. This is a very first-time theatergoer friendly production. And, as this is a very family-friendly show, I highly recommend the general public to attend and support this production. However, I caution theater lovers and regulars to recognize the inherent difficulties and production costs of making theater. If I am one to give a note to Mr. Myers and his associates, it would be to slow down and fine-tune his directorial acumen before simply adopting his tried-and-true formula to every musical. There is so much possibility here, and I am very excited to see Meyer2Meyer Entertainment’s Cabaret in June.

photos courtesy of Meyer2Meyer

Disney’s Beauty and the Beast
Meyer2Meyer Entertainment (Justin and Melissa Meyer)
The Nocturne Theatre, 324 N Orange St in Glendale
Thurs-Sun at select times
ends on June 2, 2024
for tickets, visit Nocturne



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