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On Theater: A beauty of a ‘Beast’ at the GEM

Beauty and the Beast at the GEM Theater
Brittany Gerardi as Beauty and Braydon Martino as Lumiere perform the number “Be Our Guest” at the GEM Theater’s production of “Beauty and the Beast,” on stage in Garden Grove through Dec. 22.
(Ron Lyon)

Of all the folk legends which have been Disneyfied and transported to the Broadway stage, none presents greater difficulty mounting — nor sheer satisfaction when finally accomplished — quite like “Beauty and the Beast.”

This popular tale of transformation and redemption is a holiday treat for the eye, as well as the ear, in its first locally created production at Garden Grove’s GEM Theater. It’s scheduled to play through Dec. 22 but probably could run much longer.

Beauty and the Beast at The GEM Theater
Bryan Fraser plays the Beast in the GEM Theater’s production of “Beauty and the Beast.”
(Ron Lyon)

Superior vocalizing, ensemble excellence and eye-catching costumes make the show a literal beauty under the guidance of its triple threat director Damien Lorton, who also serves as musical director and choreographer. He’s assisted in the latter endeavor by Heather Holt and Alan Collins.

The story — of a cursed beast who holds a young woman captive in his castle, maintained by animated silverware and serving dishes — is well known to all ages. At the GEM, these roles are truly enchanting, down to the last carving knife.

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The “beauty” of the show, a comely young girl more interested in books than romance, is radiantly performed by Brittany Gerardi, who’s blessed with a strong, vibrant singing voice as well as a grim determination to set things right.

As the other half of the title, Bryan Fraser is a powerful beast whose first act-closing number, “If I Can’t Love Her,” is an emotional revelation. Fraser commands the stage as he enforces his iron rules over the shuddering servants.

Beauty and the Beast at The GEM Theater
Beth Hansen plays Mrs. Potts, the teapot, in the GEM Theater’s “Beauty And The Beast,” playing in Garden Grove through Dec. 22.
(Ron Lyon)

Beth Hansen shines as Mrs. Potts, the maternal teakettle, leading the minions in a marvelous treatment of “Be Our Guest.” Another standout is Braydon Martino as Lumiere, the chatty candelabra, who performs with his arms outstretched for virtually the entire show.

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The egotistical town bully, Gaston, is given a robust interpretation by Nick Seigel, and Hunter Nelson is properly servile as his toady companion Lefou. The role of Belle’s father Maurice is uncredited in the program but Duane Thomas does a splendid job.

Beauty and the Beast at The GEM Theater
Nick Seigel (center) plays Gaston in the GEM Theater’s “Beauty And The Beast,” playing in Garden Grove through Dec. 22.
(Ron Lyon)

Peter Crisafulli also impresses as the officious clock striving to maintain order. Katie Walsh is an enticing Babette while Alden Bettencourt has a juicy cameo as an asylum operator. The young teacup Chip is engagingly played by Siena Engle.

The audience truly gets their money’s worth in this elaborately staged production that will delight both the kids and their parents. It’s a beauty of a beastly show at the GEM Theater.

IF YOU GO

What: “Beauty and the Beast”

Where: GEM Theater, 12852 Main St., Garden Grove

When: Thursdays and Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays and Sunday at 2 and 8 p.m. through Dec. 22

Cost: Starts at $28

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Information: (714) 741-9550; onemoreproductions.com

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