Each Maui high school drama department has its own personality, not unlike student bodies themselves. At Baldwin there is a "just go for it" attitude despite casting obstacles and the sometimes haphazard sets chockfull of cardboard and fresh paint. Despite the fact that many Baldwin productions are a little thorny, the students make the play and when you get to the heart of the matter, the play is the thing.
Director Linda Carnevale's current class has some outstanding singers and it is those able voices that make "Beauty and the Beast, Jr." an enjoyable, uplifting show for all ages. The cast of 34 grabs the audience from the very first lyrics of the opening number, "Belle." The music by Alan Menken with lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice should be incredibly familiar to all, and you can't help but have the tunes stuck in your head for a few days.
Ashley Ramos proficiently handles each classic Disney tune with panache and confidence. Ramos as Belle, has a superb voice and I venture she will be popping up in more musicals on island in the very near future. Aaron Candelaria, as Gaston the conceited brute who attempts to woo the intellectual Belle, has an equally strong singing voice (with maybe a dash more stage moxie). If anyone is an audience favorite, it is Candelaria who plays the cartoon element of Gaston to the hilt with lots of laughs to show for it.
If you need a refresher on the fable, Belle's wacky inventor dad (Makana Gabin), after being ambushed by a pack of wolves in the forest, takes refuge in the estate of the Beast (Justyn Haywood), where he is held captive. The Beast is cursed until he can find true love and a dying red rose will seal his fate forever when the last petal falls. Belle, discovering her father's dilemma, offers to take his place, and the countdown to a happy ending begins. Haywood, more actor than singer, is wisely cast as the Beast. He has an intensity well suited for dramas. Despite his small stature, Haywood has a large stage presence.
The comical element to "Beast," is what made it such a long running Broadway hit and the Baldwin production features several performers well suited for musical comedy. Jordyn Clarke as Lefou, is the perfect foible to Candelaria's Gaston, and the collection of cursed souls transformed into household objects account for some of the liveliest and most entertaining moments of the show.
Lumiere, a candelabra (TJ Idemoto), Cogswoth, a clock (Jay Agasid), Babette, a feather duster (Lorena Abreau), Madame de la Grade Bouche, a dresser (Nina Magnani), Mrs. Potts, a tea pot (Lana Canton) and her son Chip, a tea cup (Jasmine Hernadez) all have strong solo comic moments and offer one of the production's highlights, "Be Our Guest."
I was particularly taken with Canton's pleasant voice. This is her first major role at Baldwin and she did quite well singing solo on "Something There," as well as the title song "Beauty and the Beast." You probably guessed Belle's love saves the Beast in the nick of time, Gaston is foiled and the talking utensils return to human form. This production is perfect for children and in true happily-ever-after form, the smiling Baldwin students always seem to be having the time of their lives.
* This is the final weekend for the Baldwin High School production of Disney's "Beauty and the Beast, Jr," with music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice, book by Linda Woolverton, directed by Linda Carnevale. Performances are at the Baldwin High School Auditorium at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday and at 2 p.m. Sunday. There will also be a matinee at 2 p.m. Saturday. Tickets $12 adults, $9 seniors, $7 for people 17 and younger. Tickets are available at the door only, one hour prior to show time.