Monday December 17 5:43 am

Spotlighting events along the south shore of Lake Michigan

Take Your Little Prince or Princess to see "Disney's Beauty and the Beast"

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As in many stories starting with ‘once upon a time,’ someone is under a spell. In this case, the spoiled, arrogant Prince (Brandon Contreras) turned away a beggar woman who turned out to be a witch. She placed a spell on him turning him into a Beast – and there’s a time limit. Unless he falls in love – and someone loves him back – before a rose – a huge lighted rose which frames the stage – loses its petals, he will remain a beast forever.

Meanwhile, there’s a beautiful girl named Belle (Erica Stephan) living in a nearby village with her father, Maurice (Mark David Kaplan). Belle loves to read and help her father with his off-the-wall inventions, so both are considered ‘odd’ by the villagers.

Gaston (Mark Banik), the best hunter in the village, has decided that Belle is the only girl in the village worthy to be his wife. His stooge, LeFou (Paul Michael Thomson), provides comic relief as Gaston postures and poses. Most actors play Gaston as a legend in his own mind. This Gaston is just plain mean.
On the way to an exhibition, Maurice gets lost in the dark forest and then set upon by wolves. Luckily, he happens upon the enchanted castle, where, all the servants (also under the spell) are gradually turning into furniture. Angry because someone has broken into his home, the Beast imprisons Maurice. When Beauty finds out, she’s so frantic, she asks Gaston for help - not her smartest move. When he refuses to help, she runs off to the castle and offers to stay if her father is freed.

The servants – Cogsworth (Nick Cosgrove), the butler, who is turning into a clock; Lumiere (Tony Carter), a candlestick, Mrs. Potts (Brie Sudia), a teapot; her son Chip (Sophie Ackerman), a teacup; Babette (Allison Sill), a feather duster; and Madame de la Grande Bouche (Catherine Smitko), a former opera diva, who is becoming a wardrobe – welcome Belle with one of my favorite songs, “Be Our Guest.” Dinner features dancing china and cutlery while the napkins do the can-can.

Kudos to Drury Lane Costume Designer Ryan Park for the ingenious costumes. At first, the servants/furniture only look a little strange. As the story progresses, there are subtle additions to their costumes, like a key in Cogsworth’s back, which makes them less human.

Although the staff think Belle might be their savior – “Human Again” – the Beast is not so sure. After some setbacks, Belle agrees to dinner with the Beast. As they dance, Mrs. Potts serenades them with title song, “Beauty and the Beast.”

There’s a dark and rather sinister structure dominating the stage. It looks a lot like a huge revolving ‘El’ platform complete with supporting columns, ramps and staircases. Whenever there’s a scene change, it moves into a different position onstage, becoming a path down into the village, a scary dark forest with creepy moss hanging everywhere, or the different levels of the castle. The problem for me – I lost track of the story while I was watching this thing move.

“Disney’s Beauty and the Beast” runs through January 27th at the Drury Lane Theatre, 100 Drury Lane, Oakbrook Terrace. Parking is free, but valet service is available. Running time is 2 hours, 30 minutes, with an intermission. Performances are Wednesdays at 1:30 pm; Thursdays at 1:30 and 8:00 pm; Fridays at 8:00 pm; Saturdays at 5:00 and 8:30 pm; and Sundays at 2:00 and 6:00 pm. Tickets range from $60-$75. FYI (630) 503-0111 or www.drurylanetheatre.com.