Enchanting ‘Beauty and the Beast’ reimagined at Hope Theater

Reflecting the historical context of 18th-century France, the production brings a lovely balance of heart and humor to the story.

Hope Theater’s Beauty and the Beast brings new light to the beloved Disney classic in this enchanting production. Director Scott Heine uses the same text and music but reimagines the staging to reflect the historical context of 18th-century France. The approach is unexpected and helps audiences to better relate to the characters rather than just be entertained by them.

The prologue begins with mysterious lighting and ominous underscoring as we learn of the curse placed upon the castle by the Enchantress, played by Josie Corrado. The special effects dazzle the eye and direct attention to the enchanted rose downstage center where it remains for the entirety of the show.

Belle (Rebekah Raze) dreams of adventure in the great side somewhere in ‘Beauty and the Beast.’ Publicity photo courtesy of Hope Theater.

We soon meet Belle, played by Rebekah Raze. Her portrayal of Belle is grounded and nuanced, a refreshing departure from other animated interpretations. Raze demonstrates her wonderful acting range throughout the show. When we first meet her, the villagers of the poor provincial town are aggressively annoyed by her presence. It’s a strong contrast to the warmth and love from her father, Maurice, played by Rich Pinson. Pinson and Raze have several lovely moments in the show — most notably in the songs, “No Matter What” and “A Change in Me.”

The villainous Gaston is played by Spencer Pilcher. His booming baritone vocals are wonderfully on display in songs like “Me” and my personal favorite, “The Mob Song.” His comedic counterpart Lefou is played by Josh Carias, who is one of the most animated of the cast while still fitting within the realistic staging. He leads the song “Gaston” with strong vocals and silly slapstick moments, delivering on the humor of the animated and live-action adaptations that audiences may come to expect. Other standout villager performers are the Silly Girls, played by Stephanie Blakely, Brianna Lau, and Sarah Vaughan.

When Maurice is imprisoned in the enchanted castle, Belle fearlessly ventures into the unknown to save him. Inside the castle, she meets the lively and charismatic candelabra Lumiere played by Bill Barnes, the punctual and witty clock Cogsworth played by Andrew Harasty, the warm-hearted Mrs. Potts played by Katy Benko-Miner, the precocious teacup Chip played by Kassidy Miner, the flirtatious feather duster Babette played by Kimberly Geipel, and the grand Madame De La Grande Bouche played by Rebecca White. Rounding out the Enchanted Castle inhabitants is the once-tormented prince now transformed into the Beast, played by Billy Valentine. This enchanted ensemble works well together and brings a lovely balance of heart and humor to the story. Lumiere and Cogsworth in particular are a comedy tag team with their quick banter and punny exchanges.

Top: Gaston (Spencer Pilcher) and Lefou (Josh Carias) plot their dastardly schemes; bottom: Gaston (Spencer Pilcher) attempts to woo Belle (Rebekah Raze), to the dismay of the Les Fille La Ville (Brianna Lau, Sarah Vaughan, Stephanie Blakely) in ‘Beauty and the Beast.’ Publicity photos courtesy of Hope Theater.

The vocal performances are top-notch — kudos to Vocal Director Margo Heine and Vocal Coach Kelly Snow. Many of the actors are professionally trained singers from the area and their interpretations bring new meaning to the well-known songs of Alan Menken, Howard Ashman, and Tim Rice. Most notable are the vocal performances of Katy Benko-Miner as Mrs. Potts, Billy Valentine as Beast, and Spencer Pilcher as Gaston. The production uses a pre-recorded track of a full orchestra, and the cast does an excellent job staying with the music while giving full-out performances. The ensemble has several opportunities to shine, especially during the numbers “Be Our Guest” and “Gaston.” Choreographer Josie Corrado stages the numbers in a way to showcase the full ensemble. The surprise moment for me came during “Be Our Guest” when the napkins are joined by Belle and Mrs. Potts in a tap dance.

Costumer Amber Kiffney and Props Mistress Colleen Corrado assemble an array of 18th-century-inspired looks. The costume designs for the enchanted inhabitants of the castle feature period silhouettes with a general representation of what they have become rather than a full embodiment one may expect to see. My favorite interpretation of this approach is in the wolf ensemble. The long red suit jackets and wolf mask remind me of the Into the Woods characters Prince Charming and Wolf often played by the same actor. Their masks seem to signal that they were once aristocrats in attendance at the lavish party during the epilogue, but are now cursed to roam the woods, fighting for dominance and territory. The choreography for the wolf attack dance sequences is also very effective.

All characters affected by the enchanted curse wear a mask covering the top halves of their faces. The Beast’s mask in particular is quite striking, with large horns, lush curly hair, and beautiful animalistic details. Unfortunately, some of the masks make it difficult to understand or empathize with the characters. Some performers do overcome the obstructed facial expression through body language and vocal inflection. Kimberly Geipel as Babette is especially good, fully embracing her flirtatious feathers and demonstrating her extensive dance experience.

The smaller stage is filled to the brim with the versatile set design by Peter Marsh. The stone stairs and platforms of the village double as the stairs of the castle while flats slide on and off to complete the transformation. The combination of set design and backstage stage crew play a vital role in the quick pacing and smooth transitions. Overall the production ran very smoothly considering all of the technical and special effects that take place. Lighting Designer Dan Martin, Sound Engineer Johnny Chavarria, Stage Manager Bekah Perez, and the tech team are the magic behind the enchantment.

Through its poignant themes of love, patience, and acceptance, Beauty and the Beast reminds us to look beyond outward appearances and appreciate the goodness within. In the end, Hope Theater delivers a powerful message that love can break any curse and transform lives. This is a memorable production that will leave you feeling enchanted.

Running Time including intermission: 2 hours and 20 minutes, including one intermission.

Disney’s Beauty and the Beast plays through June 18, 2023 (Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 pm, Sundays at 2 pm), at Hope Theater, 4175 Bludau Drive, Warrenton, VA. Tickets are $24 for adults, $21 for active military or seniors, and $18 for youth age 17 and below. Reserved-seating tickets are available online or at the door on performance days.

COVID Safety: Hope Theater’s current COVID policy is a FAQ here.


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