NUANGOLA — “No one’s slick as Gaston, no one’s quick as Gaston. No one’s neck’s as incredibly thick as Gaston’s,” the villagers sing with apparent admiration.
“Oh, he’s so cute … such a tall, dark, strong and handsome brute,” sigh three infatuated girls, any of whom would be glad to marry the burly hunter who eats five dozen eggs for breakfast.
Of course, Gaston, the villain of “Beauty and the Beast” isn’t about to propose to any of the young women who swoon over him. His eyes are on Belle, a bookish beauty who, he suggests, might enjoy massaging his feet while his “latest kill” roasts over the fire and his children — they’ll all be “big strapping sons” — play with dogs.
“Gaston, I just don’t deserve you,” says a horrified Belle, who won’t be quite so horrified later in the show when she sees past the scary exterior of a different man who happens to look like a monster.
Just how beast-like will the beast appear in Theatre at the Grove’s production of the family-friendly play?
“It’s a fine line,” said Dane Bower, 34, of West Wyoming, who will sport “big teeth on the bottom of the jaw, and horns” when he portrays the beast. “You don’t want to be too frightening, because there will be kids in the audience. But you have to be scary enough to be effective.”
The beast is convincing, said Ericka Law, 24, of Wyoming, who plays Belle. She said Bower was only partly made up as the beast during a recent rehearsal, and “when he was yelling at me, I told him later, it was absolutely terrifying.”
Disney released the movie version of “Beauty and the Beast” in 1991, and Law and Bower both watched the video many times when they were growing up.
So did Matthew Buckman, 29, of Wyoming, who plays Gaston.
“I love the character,” he said. “I saw the play on Broadway, and now I’m getting to do it. I’ve been singing this music since I was a little kid, in talent shows and stuff. We all grew up with the story.”
“Beauty and the Beast” teaches important lessons about not judging by appearances, said cast member Jamie Burns, 23, of Forty Fort, explaining that message is introduced early in the play by her character, an enchantress disguised as a beggar.
When the pseudo-beggar tries to exchange a rose for a prince’s hospitality, he rudely spurns her offer, then almost immediately regrets that decision when the enchantress reveals her true self and casts a spell that makes him look frightfully beast-like. At that point, it’s too late to apologize.
Just as the spell turned the prince into a monster, it set in motion a transformation of his servants from human beings into things — with Lumiere (Kelly Krieger) well on his way to becoming a candelabra, Cogsworth (Adam Randis) sprouting a clock’s wind-up mechanism on his back; Mrs. Potts (Hollie Major) holding her arm upright in pouring position as a teapot, Babette (Becky Phillips) becoming a feather duster and Madame de la Grand Bouche (Sarah Pellegrini) becoming a wardrobe.
As you might suspect, or already know for certain, Belle will have a share in undoing this spell for all concerned.
“True love wins in the end,” Buckman said.
Reach Mary Therese Biebel at 570-991-6109 or on Twitter @BiebelMT
IF YOU GO
What: ‘Beauty and the Beast’
Where: Theatre at the Grove, 5177 Nuangola Road, Nuangola
When: Dec. 2 to 18, with performances at 7 p.m. Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays, 1 and 8 p.m. Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays
Reservations for play: 570-868-8212
Fund-raising tea: A pre-performance Princess Tea with Belle and other characters from the play is set for 11 a.m. Dec. 10, serving brunch foods, scones and desserts. Info at 570-235-9673 or theatreatthegrove.com.