On Wednesday night, the Carolina Civic Center began their five-day production of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, directed by Kendrix Singletary. The musical, faithful to (and expanding upon) the 1991 film, tells the story of young woman named Belle as she longs to explore the world outside of her hometown, which is filled with people who refer to her as “odd,” due to her strong love of books. Outside of her father, Maurice, and the smarmy town heartthrob, Gaston, Belle finds herself disfavored by the townspeople. However, after Maurice is captured by an isolated and cursed beast, Belle makes the ultimate sacrifice: to trade places with her father. Does she begin to learn that home is where the heart is? Through the course of the musical, Belle seeks love, friendship, and contentment as she discovers that appearances are not always what they seem.

Because the musical includes the animated film’s popular songs, the Carolina Civic Center performers could have been easily compared to the Hollywood professionals who originated the roles. Yet, each of the actors made their role unique to their own personality and style. Madison Cain (Belle) and Chris Walker’s (Beast) chemistry and tension-filled dynamic combined with Val Humphrey’s (Lumiere), Matthew R. Jacobs’ (Cogsworth), and Joyce Borum’s (Mrs. Potts) charisma, effectively retelling a tale that many have cherished over the years. Additionally, they sang and directed their performance to the audience in a way that effectively engaged and pulled the everyone into the musical.

Throughout the night, the audience expectantly and anxiously awaited some of the songs made iconic by the original Disney film. One of these was “Beauty and the Beast,” which was performed by Borum, who proved that the best things are those waited for. Borum’s gentle rendition did not stray from the familiar, nevertheless, she filled the song with a softness and element of hope specific to her performance. By standing off in the corner of the stage, the audience was able to listen but not necessarily see Borum, as their attention was focused on the dance between Belle and Beast. Though subdued, Borum’s performance was no less powerful; her voice clearly carried through the theater, enveloping the audience with a smoothness that made the song her own.

In combination with the performances, the production value of the show is not easily overlooked. From the use of lighting to the detailed costumes, the design elements provided a background that effectively progressed and carried the story without overshadowing the characters. The set design relied more on projections than constructed pieces. The featured constructed pieces (Maurice’s bicycle and the tavern, which serves as the background for Gaston’s song and dance number) are designed to fit the plot but don’t distract from the musical itself. The bicycle, intentionally awkwardly designed, sputtered and moved without sophistication or care for the general design of bicycles, a reflection of Maurice’s abilities rather than the design team’s. The tavern was created by using large kegs as tables and dressed with scattered drinking glasses and lit for ambiance. Due to the large ensemble present during this sequence, the set could have easily made it crowded, however, by making the glasses part of the dance sequence and thanks to an unseen person behind the curtain repositioning tables, the performers moved freely around the stage. The constructed set pieces seemed to be controlled by a pulled rope, allowing transitions to occur without disrupting the show.

During the musical, both practical and technical effects were implemented to enhance the viewer’s experience and clarify and enhance characters’ movements and decisions. This was especially effective during the Beast’s final transformation when a screen and projector were used as smoke was blown onto the Beast to heighten the important moment. The mixture of techniques was not only enjoyable to view, but also showcased the production team’s skill and dedication to storytelling.

While the lighting (Eric Voecks), props, and set design were placed and created with the utmost care, it was the design of the costumes that best created the illusion of France, making the opulence of both the provincial and upper-class French lifestyles a reality. From the costumes of the ensemble to Belle’s iconic yellow dress, each stitch brought the characters to life and pulled the audience further and further into the world of Beauty and the Beast. The wig/prop designer (Hannah “Danny” Kriner) and Judi Skinner, Robby Wilkins and Terry Sechler (costumers) played an influential part in the design, which was individualized to each of the performers, while also leaning heavily on Disney’s original character designs.

Given that many of the characters in Beauty and the Beast are household objects, mobility and authenticity are crucial elements of the design, yet were easily mastered by Kriner. Particulary, the costume choices for Madame De La Grande Bouche (Kimberly Fox) and Chip (Ashley Britt) which may have proved difficult for mobility due to the character’s form as a dresser and drink cart, were mastered without issue as the performers moved across the stage gracefully and without hinderance.

As an audience member, great sightlines allowed easy viewing of the stage as well as projections on both sides of the audience. Good sightlines allowed me to see not only the performance, but also the visuals which projected on the left and right walls of the auditorium. The background music and microphones were well balanced and allowed the audience members to clearly hear every song and piece of dialogue without feedback or inconsistent volume.

Over the years, Beauty and the Beast has been told several times in many forms, from books to films. Through the direction of Kendrix Singletary and the dedication of the performers, the Carolina Civic Center has brought not only the story to stage with exhilaration and ease, but with a new set of performers who are equally as memorable as others who have iconically taken up the role in the past. The standout performances of the cast and the impeccable choices made by the production team worked together to create a musical that continues to impress.

Beauty and the Beast continues through Sunday, June 11. For more details on this production, please view the sidebar.