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OnOurOwn Productions Presents ‘Beauty and the Beast’

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Beauty and the Beast has been my favorite Disney movie for as long as I can remember. I’ve watched it so often that I’ve worn out three VHS tapes. This French fairytale of true love, a single rose, and a cursed prince has always held a special place in my heart. Beauty and the Beast has always been a comfort film for me, regardless of which edition plays on my screen. So when OnOurOwn Productions announced they were staging their version of the Disney stage show, my friend insisted that we go and see it. It didn’t take much twisting of my arm to agree because I have yet to see a live production of one of my favorite stories of all time.

Originally adapted for Broadway from the animated film, the Beauty and the Beast stage musical had its premiere in 1994 and has had many productions, including various tours across the globe, and is poised to have its fifth US tour in 2025. Based on the tale by author Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont, the musical features music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice, and a book by Linda Woolverton. OnOurOwn Productions Beauty and the Beast was directed by Jerome Pokorney, who brought this beautiful love story to life at the Fraser Performing Arts Center in Fraser, MI. Continue on to discover all the magic from this local Michigan production of Beauty and the Beast!

OnOurOwn Productions brings a tale as old as time alive on stage

Once upon a time, a spoiled prince (Tyler Anderson) lived in a beautiful castle and received everything he wanted, but he was cruel. One cold night, an old beggar woman shows up on the castle steps, asking for shelter. The prince scoffs at her request because of her appearance and turns her away, cursing him and everyone in the castle. When the beggar lady transforms into a beautiful Enchantress (Emily Lane), the prince changes from a handsome man to a hideous beast.

But there’s hope that comes with the Enchantress’ curse; if the prince can fall in love before the last petal falls and finds love in return, the spell will be broken. Dismayed by his appearance, the Beast falls into a deep depression because who could ever learn to love someone like him?

Years go by, and the world has seemingly forgotten about the giant castle in the French countryside and its inhabitants. A small provincial town is home to Belle (Lauren Neuwirth), a beautiful but odd girl, and her equally quirky father, Maurice (Bill Proulx), an inventor of strange machines. No one who lives in the town seems to understand Belle, whose love of reading and learning distances herself from the others. However, the muscular and egotistical Gaston (Alan Neuwirth), with whom the whole city is obsessed, is fascinated with Belle because of her uncontested beauty.

Beauty and the Beast-Beast and Belle
Beast (Ryan Gigliotti) and Belle (Lauren Neuwirth). Beauty and the Beast (OnOurOwn Productions).

Belle hates her small-town life and dreams of more, but she cannot predict what fate has in store for her. After her father gets lost in the enchanted woods, Belle sets off to find him, stumbling upon his near-lifeless body in the dungeons of the Beast’s (Ryan Gigliotti) castle. She willingly trades places with her father, becoming a prisoner of the Beast and sending her life into a new trajectory.

Life becomes a storybook for Belle in the castle, surrounded by enchanted objects who all dream of becoming human again. Caught in the crossfire of the Enchantress’ curse, the servants and help in the castle become more inanimate by the day unless someone can break the curse. 

With the help of Lumiere (Wyatt Setty), a singing candelabra, Cogsworth (Mitchell Conte), a snobbish clock, Babette (Lauren Phillips), a genuine French feather duster, Mrs. Potts (Karen Brown) and her son Chip (Jacob Anderson), and the operatic wardrobe Madame De La Grande Bouche (Kylie Wieand), perhaps there is hope that The Beast and Belle can fall in love. With time running out and Gaston and his assistant LeFou (Jerry Pokorney) on the hunt for the one he believes to be his true love, only time will tell, but there seems to be something there that wasn’t there before.

A lovely production of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast

Most of the time, when you see someone talking or writing about a production that they’ve seen, it’s on the professional level. It’s probably a Broadway show from New York City or touring in some capacity. But there are so many levels of theatre, all of which should be celebrated and light shone on. Remember, those who are in a Broadway show more than likely cut their teeth in high school productions or amateur theatre. Talent is abundant across all forms of productions, as was apparent in OnOurOwn Productions’ Beauty and the Beast.

The entire cast was strong, with every actor becoming their characters easily on stage. With such a well-known Disney film, it’s essential to have easily recognizable characters, which those on stage were. From the costumes that you could recall with a single look to the accents and voices that each actor utilized, the storybook tale of Beauty and the Beast was alive on stage.

The cast was large, one of the biggest I’ve seen in a local production. During “Belle,” the entire stage was filled with actors, making the town where Belle lives feel small and compact, overflowing with those who grew up and stayed. It helps to sell the idea that Belle feels trapped and unable to leave. 

Some voices stood out amongst the crowd, one of which was that of our leading lady, Lauren Neuwirth. Neuwirth felt like the perfect casting for Belle, embracing the quirkiness and attitude essential for the princess. Belle has this balance of fierceness and grace, which makes her the ideal match for The Beast. Her brain is her most powerful weapon, and she isn’t afraid to use it. Neuwirth communicates all this wonderfully, making her a highlight of the show.

Beauty and the Beast- Gaston and Belle
Gaston (Alan Neuwirth) and Belle (Lauren Neuwirth). Beauty and the Beast (OnOurOwnProductions).

Among those standout voices was Kylie Wieand as the Madame De La Grande Bouche. In Disney’s animated Beauty and the Beast, not much is known about the character, which serves more as a comedic effect; however, in the live-action film, the role is expanded. Having once lived as an opera singer, Madame is stuck, unable to leave the bedroom and share her voice with the world. Wieand’s voice is perfect for Madame De La Grande Bouche, with an impressive vibrato that audience members could easily pick up on during ensemble songs.

Wyatt Setty and Mitchell Conte as Lumiere and Cogsworth, respectively, were a fantastic duo. Even in the animated film, these two characters have some of the best scenes, feeding off each other due to their opposing personalities. Setty and Conte capture the dueling character drives, making the crowd roar with laughter. It’s understandable why Lumiere and Cogsworth are in so many scenes, as they truly help to make Beauty and the Beast what it is.

The castle set was impressive, with three levels and different segments, some of which moved to flip the scene as needed. Because it was so high, there were times when I worried about the safety of the cast climbing up and down, but there were no accidents, and everything went off without a hitch, keeping the magic alive and well.

Support local and see fantastic productions like Beauty and the Beast

For a Broadway lover like myself, it is always a good time when I sit in a theater and take in a show. Whether in New York City or at my local community theater, it’s easy to get swept up in the show if the story is good. OnOurOwn Productions’ presentation of Beauty and the Beast transported me to a world I’ve loved my entire life. Seeing one of my favorites come to life in front of me made for a magical night, and a memory I can take about for years to come.

Check out the OnOurOwn Productions website for a list of their many past shows, including Beauty and the Beast. What are some of your favorite local productions? Let us know on social media @mycosmiccircus.

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Brian Kitson

Working hard to bring you the latest news and thoughtful analysis of all things nerdy!

Brian Kitson has 35 posts and counting. See all posts by Brian Kitson