‘Beauty and the Beast’ a fun family show


“Disney’s Beauty and the Beast,” on stage now through July 30 at Alhambra Theatre & Dining, transports the audience back to the Disney renaissance of the 1990s, when musical extravaganzas rendered in a rich tradition of 2D animation arguably achieved the pinnacle of what Walt had set in motion.

The unforgettable music of Alan Menken and sharp-witted lyrics of Howard Ashman (with additional lyrics by Tim Rice for songs unique to the stage adaptation) provide the architecture for a great show, but the Alhambra cast’s flawless execution of these musical numbers guarantees it.

As Belle, Kathryn Nash delivers an outstanding performance. In voice, she channels the original Belle, Paige O’Hara, with startling precision. And nowhere does she shine brighter than in the Menken/Rice number “A Change In Me,” which demands some of the strongest sustained vocals in the entire show.

Lisa Valdini Booth gives a worthy performance as the iconic Mrs. Potts. Regardless of the performer, it’s nearly impossible to listen to “Beauty and the Beast” without hearing Angela Lansbury, but Booth takes possession of the song and makes it her own.

The solo vocals of Jennifer Hudson (Madame De La Grande Bouche — also known as The Wardrobe) are brief and rare, but the shear power of her operatic voice — and her exuberant performance — virtually steal whatever scene in which she appears.

Vocal performances aside, the show is a success on comedic and dramatic levels as well.

The interaction between Nathan Haltiwanger (Gaston) and Anthony Llerandi (Lefou) — not to mention Gaston’s adoring entourage — provides some of the show’s best laughs. Likewise, Rodney Holmes (Lumiere), Alec Hadden (Cogsworth) and Natalie Brouwer (Babette) trade good-natured barbs and keep the mood light and fun even as they provide indispensable narrative background.

Joshua Bond gives a strong dramatic performance as The Beast, and Nick Barnes strikes the right balance between humorous crackpot and distressed father. Kat DeCicco, with her perpetual smile, is a clear audience favorite as Chip.

The dance numbers, while tailored for a performance area significantly smaller than the typical Broadway stage, nevertheless keep the show lively. Where in a traditional theatrical venue the performers “face” only one direction, theater in the round (or nearly so) demands a more inventive approach to the choreography.

Thus, the dancers are frequently divided so that some face one seating section while others face a different one.

In one number, the dancers hold a metallic mug in each hand and, in a series of complex and ever-changing arrangements, strike the mugs against those held by other dancers. The precisely timed execution is, well, striking.

One of the high points of the show is the clever costuming. This is especially true of The Wardrobe. The costume contains drawers from which the character can extract articles of clothing. At one point, the character is able to meld back into the set itself by simply shutting the upper doors over her human half.

Another costume that brings smiles to the faces in the audience is that of Chip. The challenge of this character is that he is but a teacup. In this show, the teacup is set upon a table that allows the actor to peer out from a hole in the costume while remaining mostly hidden by a tablecloth.

Alhambra Theatre & Dining, 12000 Beach Blvd., Jacksonville, will present “Disney’s Beauty and the Beast” through July 30. To learn more or purchase tickets, go to