Song & Stage

Play Review: The Gateway’s ‘Beauty and the Beast’

The Gateway team brings Disney magic to Patchogue Theatre.

The holiday season is a time for celebration of family, hope and wonder. The Gateway brings the magical world of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast to the beautiful Patchogue Theatre. It’s a beloved story of fantasy and love with a heartfelt message that resonates with audiences all over the globe. The Gateway’s production of this timeless tale will leave you smiling ear to ear. From the stunning, enormous set with many moving parts to the intricate makeup bringing the Beast to life, this production of Beauty and the Beast is one more reason to love the talented staff at The Gateway for giving us another reason to celebrate this season.

Directed by Gateway regular Joseph Minutillo, whose work has been seen at local theaters like Bay Street and Guild Hall, Beauty and the Beast is a feast for the senses from beginning to end. When the first bars of the enchanting music begin to play, it will take you back to a simpler time.

The Gateway is known for bringing Broadway-caliber talent to Long Island and this spectacular is no different. The aptly named Belle is played by Emily Behny, who we last saw at Gateway playing Janet in The Rocky Horror Show and Sherrie in Rock of Ages. Having previously performed as Belle in the National Tour of Beauty and the Beast, Behny is a natural as the beautiful, misunderstood, ahead-of-her-time bookworm. She was the brightest star onstage as the beloved beauty, lending her own distinctive sass and strength to the character. The opening song “Belle” was fun and festive, staying true to the Disney classic and don’t be surprised if you start breaking out in song along with the characters.

Gaston's song, Photo: Courtesy Gateway Playhouse
Gaston’s song, Photo: Courtesy The Gateway

Gaston may be the “bad guy” in this story, but you can’t help but love Joe Hager’s hilarious portrayal of the narcissistic and muscular hunter. Hager also portrayed Gaston in the National Tour of Beauty and the Beast and it’s no wonder why The Gateway cast him—he’s positively delightful as the villain everyone loves to hate. The scene in the tavern where they celebrate Gaston with his namesake song is boisterous and hysterical, with his sidekick LeFou—played by Courtier Simmons—adding his own comedic genius to the number. I dare you not to laugh out loud!

The heart of the story is the unlikely hero in this tale—the Beast, played by the talented Loren Christopher, who also reprises his role of the Beast from the production’s National Tour and The Gateway’s 2013 production of Beauty and the Beast. It comes as no surprise that Christopher seems made for this role, portraying the Beast first as gruff and growling, hunched over and animal-like and then, as he falls in love with Belle, transformation happens before our eyes. The captivating Beast becomes the Prince he always should have been thanks to the kindhearted, gentle soul of Belle.

The supporting characters that we know and love are portrayed wonderfully, and I especially enjoyed Jonathan Hadley as the flirtatious and funny Frenchman-turned-candlestick, Lumière, who happens to be one of my favorite Disney characters. Hadley has the most spot-on accent and captures the wit and spirit of Lumière perfectly. The number “Be Our Guest” is an easy favorite, with the company performing the scene with gusto and fanfare; from the dancing dishes to the frolicking forks and knives, you can’t help but smile and clap along as this beloved and iconic scene is brought to glorious life through the magic of musical theater.

Robert Anthony Jones plays the stubborn clock Cogsworth hilariously, and Teri Hansen plays the lovable teapot Mrs. Potts so very well. Her performance of the title song brought tears to my eyes as Belle and her Beast glide around the dance floor. The beauty of the song, combined with the characters bringing the story to life, evokes that magical feeling you’ll want to experience over and over again.

Belle enchanting the audience, Photo: Courtesy Gateway Playhouse
Belle enchanting the audience, Photo: Courtesy The Gateway

The set is spectacular—an enormous structure that turns 360 degrees and portrays the castle’s West Wing with the enchanted rose, Belle’s chamber, the dungeon and more. The cast worked seamlessly through many transitions. The costumes worn by the enchanted characters were charming; from the “candlesticks” held by Lumière to the inventive way they portray Chip, Mrs. Potts teacup son, played by the adorable Marty Timlin. We particularly liked the creepy portrayal of the wolves that surround the Beast’s castle. Madame de la Grande Bouche, the wardrobe opera singer, is brought to life by the powerhouse Roxy York.

The entire production of The Gateway’s Beauty and the Beast is a success, from the massive set to the costumes and the talented actors and ensemble cast members. This lovely Disney tale is fantastically represented and is the perfect holiday treat the entire family can enjoy together.

Beauty and the Beast runs through Sunday, December 30 at the Patchogue Theatre. For tickets and information visit thegateway.org.

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