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Skylight’s Fun-Scary ‘Beauty and the Beast’ a Must-See

Mar. 20, 2017
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Photo credit: Mark Frohna

For those theatergoers who can never get enough of Beauty and the Beast (and that includes the new live action version), there's a new "live action" production in town. It's done up in 18th century light opera courtesy of the Skylight Music Theatre with some very impressive fun-scary puppetry. (That would be the Beast).

The original fairy tale started out in 1771 as an opera called Beauty and the Beast (Zemire and Azor).  James Ortiz (Director, Scenic and Puppet Designer) and Shari Rhoads (Music Director) have created an intimate reimagining which will thrill the "big kid" fans who will delight in the many comic moments skillfully handled by the six member cast and four member "Beast" ensemble.

For those scratching their heads about that word "opera," this new adaptation succeeds on many levels: the music is completely accessible as it's all sung in English (with the exception of one important aria in French). The actors make much of the comedy in this production. And then there's that BEAST! Director/Designer Ortiz's specialty is puppetry. But this is no puppet. This is one big fun but fierce monster who actually has a range of emotions. That's courtesy of the four actors who deftly move in unison to create the amazing visual spectacle.

But there would be no Beast (his real name is Azor) without the Beauty (Zemire). And in her Skylight debut, Gillian Hollis radiates pure innocence in her performance as well as in her singing, which reaches its vocal zenith in the Act 2 French aria, La Fauvette. Chaz'men Williams-Ali is the voice of the Beast, and his rich tenor fully inhabits the monster, who we come to pity and empathize with, along with Zemire.

As the bumbling sidekick servant, Ali, Nicholas Nestorak brings out much of the natural comedy of this adaptation, his small frame a natural contrast to the looming largeness of the Beast.

But hurry. This is a very limited run. However, like all good fairy tales, it does end happily ever after. Even in opera!

Through March 26 in the Cabot Theatre at the Broadway Theater Center, 158 N. Broadway. For more information, call 414-291-7800, or visit www.skylightmusictheatre.org

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