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Posted July 25, 2009 | Copyright © The Northern Virginia Daily
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'Beauty' shines through in extravagant show

"Beauty and The Beast"
Beth Cheryl Tarnow and David Weitzer star in "Beauty and The Beast" at the Shenandoah Summer Music Theatre. Courtesy photo

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By John Horan Jr. -- jhoran@nvdaily.com

WINCHESTER -- "Beauty and the Beast" is back at the Shenandoah Summer Music Theatre in all its sumptuous, ingenious glory.

Director Hal Herman's blockbuster production, the most ambitious in the theater's 26-year history, retains the magical charms that wowed audiences four years ago.

Wm. McConnell Bozman's elaborate, inventive sets again star, complemented by Cheryl Yancey's opulent costumes. Though relegated to a supporting role, the cast is uniformly fine, singing with feeling, dancing with verve and conveying the alternately tender and exuberant story.

The show brings to life the 1991 full-length Disney movie cartoon and the familiar tale of the prince consigned to beastliness who can only be redeemed by love. His servants, equally cursed, are reduced to being human teacups, clocks and armoires, cleverly outfitted by Yancey.

While the cast's ministrations are entertaining, they're overshadowed by Bozman's technical coups: the scenery that skitters independently across the stage, the castle turret that swings around and connects to a plank for a climactic confrontation, and the beast himself, levitating and spinning as the curse is broken.

Even Bozman's less spectacular efforts are charming: a fancy multi-tiered castle, a bucolic town square, rustic tavern and colorful panels that descend to conjure a library or an eerie forest.

While Yancey's civilians are attired attractively, her costumes for the characters caught up in the prince's curse are especially plush and witty. Her "silverware" and "plates" come gloriously to life in a high-spirited scene reminiscent of a Busby Berkeley musical that's topped off with sparklers spewing from champagne bottles.

Despite the brilliant technical effects, including William Ingham's effective lighting, the moving love story shines through, propelled by Alan Menken's muscular, faux-operatic score.

Beth Cheryl Tarnow is an enchanting Belle, the prince's only hope for salvation, and David Weitzer is a poignant beast once he restrains his bluster. Both sing stylishly.

Jeff Brooks is the village Lothario, Chris Douglas his silly servant and Nick Nerangis Belle's eccentric but sympathetic father. Matthew Gose, Jeff Mueller and Libby Ingham are entertaining as servants.

Gose does double duty as the show's choreographer, supplying stunning routines for the ensemble.

* "Beauty and the Beast"

* By Howard Ashman and Tim Rice

* Directed by Hal Herman

* Continuing at the Ohrstrom-Bryant Theatre through Aug 2. Box office phon number: 665-4569

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