ACCC’s ‘Beauty’ a sight to behold

By RICHARD LUKEN
Register Reporter

Register/Richard Luken
Elizabeth Otto, center, portrays Belle in the Allen County Community College production of “Beauty and the Beast” tonight through Saturday at the Bowlus Fine Arts Center. Here, Belle is shown with an assortment of dancing napkins, silverware and a candleabra. The elaborate costumes make the play even more spectacular.

The lesson offered from the Allen County Community College production of “Beauty and the Beast” is timeless — true beauty lies within.
Based on an old French fairy tale brought to prominence by a 1991 animated Disney film, “Beauty and the Beast” follows the story of a well-to-do and rather selfish prince who refuses the gift of a single red rose from an old beggar woman in search of a place to stay.
As fate would have it, the beggar was indeed a witch who casts a spell on the prince and everyone living in his castle. He is transformed into a hideous beast whose spell can be broken only by true love.
Enter Belle, a young maiden considered a bit of an oddball by her fellow villagers because of her love of books and her eccentric inventor father.
The story follows Belle’s act of selflessness — she agrees to give herself up after her father is mistakenly charged with trespassing and imprisoned in Beast’s castle — and the Beast’s growing desperation to find love despite his brutish appearance.
There’s a sense of urgency. Beast must find love before the last petal falls from the witch’s magical rose — in which case he’ll remain a monster forever. And Belle also seeks to reunite with her father, who after his release from the castle is mocked and threatened by other villagers for his seemingly outlandish tales.
Complicating matters is Gaston, the town brute, whose brawny good looks belie his own selfish and egotistical persona. Gaston figures that Belle, the most beautiful girl in town, should obviously be his wife.
Can Belle save her father? Will Beast find true love in time to become a prince once again?
The answer will be revealed tonight, Friday and Saturday at 7:30 at the Bowlus Fine Arts Center. Tickets for the production cost $6 for adults and $4 for students. Advance tickets are available at Iola Pharmacy and at the box office door each night.

THERE IS plenty to praise in the production, a collaboration between ACCC’s drama and music departments.
Lest she fret about being typecast, Elizabeth Otto could well earn a living at Disney World. She brings Belle’s beauty to life and her powerfully melodic voice fills the Bowlus auditorium on multiple occasions.
Josh Robb, meanwhile, shines as the Beast, a conflicted sort who knows full well what he must do to once again become a prince, but is riddled with guilt, angst and fear as he realizes time is running short. Likewise, Ryan Cochran is quite adept at playing such an unlikeable and buffoonish character such as Gaston.
The audience, especially the younger viewers, will be delighted with the outrageous banter of Garrett Skidmore, Chris Yackle, Nachele Gonsalez, Katie Knoblich and Lisa Geiler as Beast’s servants who are slowly being transformed into inanimate objects as part of the witch’s spell. Special notice should go to Aaron Terhune, a local elementary school student portraying Chip, a young teacup.
Other characters take full advantage of their all-too-brief appearances on stage, such as Billy Wicks, Belle’s eccentric father, Christopher Haynes as LeFou, Gaston’s outrageous sidekick.
A pair of memorable ensemble dances will have the crowd tapping its toes and humming along, particularly with Yackle headlining the tune “Be Our Guest.” He’s joined onstage by a crackerjack troupe of ensemble characters under the masterful guidance of choreographer Mindy Covey.

AND WHAT would a musical be without good music? Headlined by orchestra conductor Ed Lammers, a troupe of ACCC students and other local musicians provide a number of Broadway-worthy tunes. Their timing is impeccable and help the musical proceed seamlessly from scene to scene. Orchestra members are Jan Goering, Trish Brown, Lewis and Carol Hoyt, Paula Sutherland, Julie Tidd, Rosemarie Jay, Courtney Frame, Danielle Henke, Paul Vernon, Janice Wiese, Hal Dvorachek, Mark Dice, Dan Dolittle, Jim Cordes and Len Carey. They deserve a hearty round of applause.
“Beauty and the Beast” continues a string of musical masterpieces by ACCC drama instructor Tony Piazza, who proves that not only is beauty found within; it’s also found this weekend on the Bowlus stage.