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A Beast for the eyes: Disney musical gets a glam local production

Belle of the ball: In Ridge Chorale’s production of “Beauty and the Beast,” opening on Feb. 2, the Beast (Craig Evans) reaches out to Belle (Lindsey Zelli).
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Call it “Beauty and the Best-Dressed.”

A Bay Ridge theater company will bring the Broadway musical “Beauty and the Beast” to a Borough Park stage this weekend, complete with its elaborate gowns, magical make-up, and sometimes cumbersome costumes. Ridge Chorale chose the animated Disney adaptation for its annual production, opening on Feb. 2, in part due to the excitement generated by last year’s live-action film, said its producer — and despite the challenge of bringing its elaborate outfits to the stage.

“When the movie came out, all of a sudden there was a whole new buzz about it, so this we felt was the perfect opportunity to now bring it back to the live musical,” said Karen Tadross. “I don’t think there is anyone who doesn’t love ‘Beauty and the Beast’ — it appeals to all age groups, and it’s a timeless story. But it presents an entirely different category of difficulty, in that the costumes are very elaborate.”

The show’s 50 amateur and professional cast members — who range in age from 7 to 75 years old — will wear 75 rented costumes between them, according to Tadross. Some characters change more than others — the titular Beast, for instance, has six costume changes, in addition to a nightly half hour transformation in which two makeup artists apply a latex prosthetic, makeup, a wig, and a headdress. The actor behind the Beast said that the drastic change into a bestial form requires him to use his body to convey moods that would normally show on his face.

“It’s definitely a bit of a shock — I think to see familiar eyes come out of a very unfamiliar face is somewhat unsettling,” said Craig Evans. “There is some [facial] movement based on my expressions, but they’re muted, so it really has to be more of an overall movement of the body to convey the expressions.”

The creatures of the castle have some challenges of their own, said the actor who plays the living candelabra Lumière. The arms of his costume end in candle flames, so he cannot use his hands during the show, he said.

“I haven’t been using my hands to practice having no hands at all — it’s all sort of gesturing, pretty much,” said John Panepinto. He has had an easier time growing out the character’s required curled mustache, he added.

The show will also feature an 18-piece live orchestra to provide the show’s soundtrack, and a collection of elaborate sets. The company spent $60,000 to stage the show, funded from grants from former Councilman Vincent Gentile’s office, the Department of Cultural Affairs, and other private grants and fund-raising.

The sartorial challenges are worth the extra cost and the effort they require from the actors, said Tadross

“These are such iconic characters for anybody who grew up on Disney,” she said. “You can’t fudge that. It has to be authentic.”

“Beauty and the Beast” at the St. George Community Center Theatre (6209 11th Ave. at 63rd Street in Borough Park, www.ridgechorale.com). Feb. 2–3, 9–10 at 8 pm. Feb. 3–4, 10–11 at 2 pm. $25 ($20 for seniors and kids under 10).

Reach reporter Julianne McShane at (718) 260–2523 or by e-mail at jmcshane@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @juliannemcshane.
Posted 12:00 am, January 31, 2018
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