“Beauty and the Beast”: PAHS Music Theater’s ambitious adaptation


Michael Frantz

Front cover art for program by Michael Frantz.

I’ll admit, I haven’t watched Disney’s 1991 animated classic, “Beauty and the Beast.” Nor have I watched the 1994 Broadway production, or the 2017 live-action film. Heck, I didn’t even grow up with the fairy tale!

However, I did watch PAHS Music Theater’s performance of the story.

PAHS Music Theater presented “Beauty and the Beast” to an invitation-only audience on April 30th and May 1st. According to Director Erin Knepper, the adaptation was mainly based on the animated movie and the Broadway musical. Not only did the class recycle dialogue from both sources, but they also “created” their own.

The performance had a cast of sixteen actors. Some included Jenna Diem as Belle and Shawn Phillips as the Beast; Tony Waterfall as Maurice; Ian Douglas as Gaston and Winter Campbell as Lefou; Michael Frantz as Lumiere and AudreyAnna Mauk as Cogsworth; Katelyn Griebel as Mrs. Potts; and Isabella Dienes as Madame de la Grande Bouche.

The story of “Beauty and the Beast” remained the same. Belle is a misunderstood girl who loves to read and has no time for Gaston – the village’s oh-so-beloved hunter – trying to pursue a romantic relationship with her.

Belle’s life of normalcy turns upside down when her quirky father, Maurice, gets incarcerated in a castle. She goes to said castle and realizes that it’s occupied by a Beast and his Enchanted Objects.

The Beast and the Enchanted Objects were once human, but now they’re under an enchantress’ spell. When the Beast became, well, a Beast, the enchantress told him that he and his servants can only return to their human form if he falls in love and is loved mutually. She gave him a magical rose as a reference for time. If the rose dies before the Beast can find true love, then he and the Enchanted Objects will remain in their current state forever.

And guess what? The rose is starting to die.

I thoroughly enjoyed this production. What was nice about Music Theater’s adaptation was that you didn’t need to be familiar with any other version of the story. Now, would my viewing experience have been enhanced if I grew up watching “Beauty and the Beast” (or more Disney movies, for that matter)? Probably. Nonetheless, I still thought that my Friday evening was well-spent.

The casting was excellent. Jenna Diem did a phenomenal job portraying the kindhearted, introverted Belle. Shawn Phillips’ gruff and cold tone of voice added an extra layer of authenticity to the Beast’s long-lived anguish. Michael Frantz, with his charismatic gestures and manner of speech, brought Lumiere’s warmth – literally and figuratively – to life. There were so many talented actors that I can’t go through all of them.

The music was well-orchestrated. The only instrument that was played throughout the performance was the piano, and yet every song sounded so cheerful, exciting, sad, or romantic. My personal favorite song was “Gaston,” which featured Gaston, Lefou, and the townsfolk.

Everyone’s costume was clever and – I can assume – accurate to the animated movie and the Broadway musical. For example, Jenna Diem’s blue and white costume was similar to Belle’s clothes in the movie. Then she wore a gold, sparkling dress that was reminiscent of the one that Belle wore for the “ball scene.”

This might sound nerdy, but I appreciated the incorporation of off-stage acting. Productions don’t always include this, but when they do, it’s a nice touch. It shows how performers can break the boundaries of the stage.

“Beauty and the Beast” had some hiccups, but most of them were minor. The only noteworthy issue was that the Beast was too quiet when he sang.

I am immensely impressed with Music Theater’s performance. Everyone put countless hours of passion and effort into this project, and it showed. I would like to thank Erin Knepper and the members of PAHS Music Theater for not only entertaining me, but also for introducing me to a wonderful tale. I am no longer living under a rock.