mug Gove

Tale as old as time,

song as old as rhyme …

I attended Sunday’s matinee performance of Beauty and the Beast at the Ritz Theatre with Jeremy and a few friends. The final showing of the play on a chilly Sunday afternoon was a sold out affair. It was the perfect kind of day for huddling up with hot popcorn and a soda to watch a classic story unfold.

The show didn’t disappoint.

The live orchestra’s performance was incredible. Musical junkie that I am, I commented to Jeremy when the prelude began I’d be satisfied with just hearing the play’s score even if the actors never took stage. But, I’m sure glad they did!

From Gaston (Cole Hendley) and LeFou’s (Chris Thigpen) slapstick comedy to the Beast’s  (Shawn Johnson) heart wrenching solos, and Belle’s (Alex Holwick) nearly pitch perfect performance, the show kept us engaged for three hours. The choral group’s performance was strong as well.

Eli Varnadore and David Rogers’ characterizations of Cogsworth and Lumiere were spot on. Their interplay was perfectly timed and their feigned accents seemed natural, not at all forced. Ms. Pott’s (Maikala McGauley) singing voice was powerful too.

As impressive as the cast and crew were, however, they didn’t steal the show.

The half dozen or so children seated around us, their reactions to the play, provided the best entertainment for Jeremy and me.

A two-year-old little girl, the daughter of a friend, had a front row seat to the action. She was squirmy as most her age are … until the curtain lifted.

She never lost interest.

I expected her to be frightened perhaps by the loud music or Beast’s roar, but not even the villagers’ marching on the castle scared her. Although, she chewed a fingernail or two.

We were seated half way up the theatre next to a petite blond with a big heart. Beast struggled with his doubts and fears — how would he ever earn forgiveness? How could anyone love someone as hideous as he?

And, the little blond cried big tears, her eyes swimming as the curtain fell for intermission. She sniffled for a few minutes more before her mother’s suggestion of popcorn prompted a smile.

Across the aisle a little boy sat on the edge of his seat, perfectly still until the moment Gaston incited villagers into marching on the castle to kill beast.

“Oh no, Beast!” he cried, nearly jumping up to warn Beast of the pending danger.

A few seconds later he could stand the suspense no longer, falling into his mother’s arms. But as the castle crew soundly spooked the villagers away and Belle returned to Beast’s side, he rallied  — once again perched on the corner of his chair in anticipation.

We clapped and cheered at the happily-ever-after ending, standing to our feet to congratulate the performers, but Jeremy and I chuckled all the way out of the theatre recalling those little tots, and Monday morning I was still humming the score, but it was those childrens’ glowing faces that made me smile.

Oh to experience life through the viewpoint of a child’s wonderment once again. It does the heart good to feel that kind of joy.

• Sarah Tarr Gove is news editor of The Blackshear Times. Email her at sgove@theblacksheartimes.com.