Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Review: ‘Beauty and the Beast’ Thrives as Ballet, Much More in De Pere

The Dance Company Beauty and the Beast program cover_1553259605715.jpg.jpg

There are versions upon versions of “Beauty and the Beast,” and then there is The Dance Company’s take on “Beauty and the Beast.”

The production continuing for four more performances to March 24 is quite a hybrid.

It sweeps through dance of many forms, recorded narration, spoken dialogue, lip-synched singing, actual singing and music from many sources – all to tell a “tale as old as time.”

I found myself sitting in fascination in Walter Theatre of Abbot Pennings Hall of Fine Arts at St. Norbert College wondering, “What’s next?”

The production is a stop-and-go affair with more than two dozen scene changes, with the “go” parts being flowing or lively or colorful or vivid as they drive the story forward.

The story: A haughty prince treats a hag ill and is cursed by her to live as a beast unless he can clean up his act and love someone and have that someone love him back.

He lives in a castle in which his servants have been turned into household fixtures and utensils. His someone to be, Belle, lives in a village, where she is looked upon as “other” because she can, of all things, read. Belle also is looked upon to be the future someone of the town cad, Gaston.

All in all, this is a remarkable production devised by the leaders of artistic director Shirley Van’s creative team – Carrie Wielgus, Jami Goodman and Michael Palubicki. While they borrow a lot from existing versions, they also make this “Beauty and the Beast” The Dance Company’s own.

This and that:

+ Jami Goodman is a major factor. Not only did she help create the production, she performs in it as Belle, setting the tone of a young woman yearning to find love for what she is as a caring soul. Grace and meaning flow through her solo scenes.

+ Alex Sabin is another major factor. As the Beast, he is an actor who can dance. The two elements come together terrifically in two transformations of the Beast. First, he glides for a time with the silken Enchantress (Katelyn Badeau, who herself has transformed from the hag). As the curse takes over, Sabin slowly evolves the Prince-to-Beast’s plight and agony. At the climax, Sabin transforms back in depiction of a rebirth.

+ As Gaston and Father, Andrew Delaruelle and Matt Maloney, respectively, act more than dance, but they are surrounded by character dancing/acting galore. Bright performances radiate from Lily Mannion (Lumiere, the candlestick), Bryanna Gauger (Cogsworth, the clock), Koree Brosig (Plumette, the feather duster), Hannah Vanden Heuvel (Mrs. Potts, the tea pot), Kayla Hecker (Chip, the cup) and Maria Miller (LeFou, Gaston’s lackey).

+ This production includes three notable add-in touches. One. The prince received a rose from the hag that could spell forever for his curse if its last petal falls. In this case, the Rose dances, with Sylvia Pryes soloing in scenes laced with haunting beauty. Two. Belle goes back in time and sees her mother and herself as a child, with Aubrey Prostl performing a brief and touching ballet sequence as Young Belle. Three. The development of love between Belle and the Beast comes through books in the Prince/Beast’s library. Jami Goodman and Alex Sabin enact romantic readings from William Shakespeare and others and establish the connections of the heart.

+ While Thursday’s performance included assorted audio hitches, on the whole this very large production came off as highly organized with the dancers well prepared, including the salt and pepper shakers, the plates and utensils.

+ Surprises pop. “The Militia Marches In” brings on a rhythmic ensemble of girls, beaming and tap dancing. As Lumiere, Sylvia Pryes has a scene that’s a hybrid tap/ballet dancing. Humor is dusted around the dialogue, a lot from the household fixtures and even from the Beast. This show’s dresser is huge (Avery Spoerl is Madame de Garderobe), with dancing dresses bursting from it.

Imagination, ambition and adventure fill The Dance Company’s adaptation of the classic “Beauty and the Beast.”

***

Creative: Artistic director – Shirley Van; show director – Carrie Wielgus; assistant show director – Jami Goodman; stage director – Michael Palubicki; costume designer – Jami Goodman; costumes lead – Ann Suring; props chair – Tracy Smits; production chair – Tom Polomis; lighting – Scott LaPlante; audio/video – Thomas Danz

Cast:

Beast – Alex Sabin

Belle – Jami Goodman

Enchantress – Katelyn Badeau

Rose – Sylvia Pryes

Father – Matt Maloney

Gaston – Andrew Delaurelle

LeFou – Maria Miller

Cogsworth – Bryanna Gauger

Lumiere – Lily Mannion

Mrs. Potts – Hannah Vanden Heuvel

Chip – Kayla Hecker

Plumette – Koree Brosig

Madame de Garderobe – Avery Spoerl

Asylum Director – Troy Wypishinski-Prechter

Headmaster – Owen Schoeder

Silly Girl 1 – Hailey Maxwell

Silly Girl 2 – Josey Wolf

Silly Girl 3 – Anna Smits

Belle’s Mother – Hannah Schmitz

Young Belle – Aubrey Postl

Villagers – Principal, Soloist and Ensemble Dancers

Young Village Girl – Ilianna Castro, Ella Van Price

Village Children – Ensemble and Junior Company

Salt and Pepper Shakers – Ensemble and Guest Dancers

Wolves – Principal and Soloist Dancers

Ball/Party – Principal, Soloist and Guest Dancers

Be Our Guest – Company

Pub Scene – Principal and Soloist Dancers

Dresses – Principal and Soloist Dancers

Mob Scene – Principal, Soloist and Ensemble Dancers

Fight Scene – Principal, Soloist and Ensemble Dancers

Principal I – Katelyn Badeau, Koree Brosig, Bryanna Gauger, Jami Goodman, Kayla Hecker, Lily Mannion, Hailey Maxwell, Anna Smits, Hannah Vanden Heuvel

Principal II – Grace Nimmer, Amber Polomis, Hannah Schmitz, Josey Wolf

Soloist – Emma Johnson, Clarissa LaPlante, Jessica McMullen, Maria Miller, Sylvia Pryes, Jayna Schema, Avery Spoerl, Troy Wypishinski-Precter

Ensemble – Ally Boocmeier, Natalie Danz, Sonia Ettinger, Yuritzi Flores, Cassie Kubale, Emily Legois, Kate Miller, Izzy Nelson, Grace Pieschek, Addison Schmidt, Ella Thomas, Eleanor VanPrice

Junior Company – Michelle Brunette, Ilianna Castro, Keyla Christensen, Sophia Cruz Reznicek, Brooklyn Klarner, Cece Mehlberg, Aubrey Postl, Lauren Robillard, Morgan Veldboom

Guest Dancers – Ana Baumgardt, Savannah Budworth, Megan Buchman, Lauren Buchman, Andrew Delaurelle, Harper Enderby, Naomi Goeben, Lucy Greiling, Matt Mahoney, Marie McKeown, Alex Sabin, Emma Schroeder, Harper Schroeder, Owen Schroeder, Jackson Toivonen, Andrea Vance Brielle Werych

Running time: Two hours, 53 minutes

Remaining performances: 7 p.m. March 22; 2 and 7 p.m. March 23; 2 p.m. March 24 Info: gbdanceco.org

***

Music credits

“Waltz No. 2” – Dmitri Shostakovich

“The Chairman’s Waltz” – Itzhak Perlman, Yo-Yo Ma

“Meryton Townhall” – Jean-Yves Thibaudet

“The Militia Marches In” – Jean-Yves Thibaudet

“How Does a Moment Last Forever” – Violin cover by BeatCream

“Dancing on the Light” – Richard Dillon

“Me” – Alan Menken

“The Flik Machine” – Randy Newman

“Last Supper” – Alexandre Desplat

“Triscadecaphobia” – Alexandre Desplat, Aaron Zigman

“Imagination Land” – Michael Giacchino

“Gaston” – Josh Gad, Luke Evans

“Team Building” – Michael Giacchino

“Dream Production” – Michael Giacchino

“Be Our Guest” – Ewan McGregor, Emma Thompson, Ensemble

“Small Pack of Wolves” – Ramin Djawadi

“Days in the Sun” – Adam Mitchell, Stanley Tucci, Ensemble

“The Garden Meeting” – John Williams Yo-Yo Ma

“Something There” – Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Ensemble

“You Win or You Die” – Ramin Djawadi

“Welcome to Baby Corp” – Hans Zimmer, Steve Mazzaro

“Take Me as I Am” – Original Broadway cast of “Jekyll and Hyde”

“Beauty and the Beast” – Emma Thompson

“Evermore” – Dan Stevens

“The Mob Song” – Luke Evans, Josh Gad, Ensemble

“Battle in the Castle” – Alan Menken

“Life” – Ludovico Einaudi, Daniel Hope

“Tale as Old as Time” – Instrumental Philharmonic Orchestra

“Be Our Guest” – Royal Philharmonic Orchestra

Script credits

“The Alchemist” – Paulo Coelho

“The Prophet” – Kahil Gibran

“Romeo and Juliet” – William Shakespeare

***

THE VENUE: The 725-seat Byron L. Walter Theatre features a proscenium stage (flat front). Its walls are textured concrete blocks laid in a wave pattern. The ceiling includes white acoustical clouds. Seat material and carpeting are the traditional theater red. The theater is located in Abbot Pennings Hall of Fine Arts at St. Norbert College in De Pere. It is the larger of two theaters in the building, the core of which was built in 1955. In 1989, the Walter Theatre was renovated to improve the lobby and interior aesthetic, adding seating and improving the acoustics.

THE PERSON: Byron L. Walter (1877-1954) was a businessman. He operated Green Bay Hardware, Inc. until his retirement in 1953. Walter was co-founder of Paper Converting Machine Co. and for a time served as president. After his death, the Byron L. Walter Family Trust was established, and it made possible the theater. The trust continues to make widespread contributions to community projects and institutions.

Contact me at warren.gerds@wearegreenbay.com. Watch for my on-air Critic at Large editions on WFRV-TV at 6:20 a.m. Sundays. My latest book, “I Fell Out of a Tree in Fresno (and other writing adventures),” is available in Green Bay at Neville Public Museum and Bosse’s.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.