With a talented 60-member cast and three weeks of sold-out performances, the Disney musical Beauty and the Beast was just what Hilo’s Palace Theatre needed for a comeback after being closed for 16 months. The show also served as the inaugural production of the Palace’s newly created Youth Theatre Program.
The award-winning musical is based on the popular 1991 animated Disney film of the same name and included everyone’s favorite characters and songs. The Palace Theatre’s production featured direction by Larry Reitzer, choreography by Nadia Schlosser, and musical direction by Lisa Taylor. Their combined hard work and the cast’s outstanding performances at Saturday’s show made this production a delight for both the audience and this reviewer.
Safety protocols were in place, and everyone was temperature checked and told to wear face masks for the duration of the performance. Hawaii County Mayor Mitch Roth allowed the theatre to have a 300-seat capacity out of 490 for each show.
Beauty and the Beast is a family-friendly fairy tale with a clever mix of comedy and romance. It tells the story of Belle (Kyra Gomes), a headstrong village girl and a handsome young prince (Charles Bankhead Haines), who is magically transformed by an enchantress into a hideous monster, his servants into household objects as punishment for the prince’s arrogance. To break the spell, the Beast must learn to love and be loved in return.
The household objects are Lumiere (Ku’uhiapo Jeong), a candelabra with some of the best lines, who often flirts with French maid Babette (Ryzen-Josiah Dasalla), now a feather duster. Cogsworth (Kyden De Sa), who formerly ran the house with precision, has found himself turned into a grandfather clock. Mrs. Potts, the housekeeper (Miriam Wilson), is an optimistic tea kettle, with Chip (Zoe Kaneshiro) as the charming young teacup.
Then there’s the villain Gaston (Jameson Sato), a bully who favors Belle. Her well-meaning father (Alexander Knapp) is often looked down upon by the villagers for his odd inventions, and Gaston has plans of locking him up so he can marry Belle. Gaston’s sidekicks, the LeFous (Bridge Hartman, Ricky Alvarez, and Sam Deitch) add hilarity to many scenes.
There were several over-the-top numbers where the entire cast filled both the stage and the aisles. For example, in the big production number “Be Our Guest,” some dancers were dressed as giant plates and others as food items like a bag of tortilla chips. There were even local references to Spam, musubi, and Loco-Moco. Nice touch! As the song progressed, out came the can-can dancers, and small children dressed as waiters with food trays, and it concluded with confetti cannons going off showering over the audience.
There were enthusiastic cheers for individual performances by Gomes (“A Change in Me”) and Banks (“I Can’t Love Her”); some audience members came prepared to offer bouquets to the cast after the show.
At the beginning of the musical, an announcement was made for the audience to stay in their seats after the finale as there would be something special to stick around for, and indeed there was. After a brief pause, five hula dancers entered the stage and reprised the song “Beauty and the Beast” while cast members sang the song in Hawaiian – Alexander Knapp played the ukulele.
The cast and crew did an excellent job of bringing the characters to life, and their costumes were spectacular. The colorful sets and energetic dancing made the evening magical from beginning to end. Vocal talents were top-notch as well.
Kudos to producer/director Larry Reitzer for starting the Youth Theatre Program at the Palace. “This program is designed to increase its acting opportunities, as well as youth audiences and theatre awareness for younger audiences,” Reitzer said in our pre-show interview. Those interested in getting involved should contact the theatre.
Reitzer, whose past Big Island credits include Biloxi Blues (2020) and Gypsy (2019), will be directing The Producers in October at the Palace Theater. Auditions are already underway.
Steve Roby is a music journalist, bestselling author, and editor of Big Island Music Magazine.
Photos: Steve Roby