A love fable, well told

Beauty and the Beast

“Tale as old as time.”

“Tale as old as time.”

Photo courtesy of B Street Theatre

Beauty and the Beast, 1 and 4 p.m. Saturday, Sunday; $15-$20. B Street Theatre, 2727 B Street; (916) 443-5300; www.bstreettheatre.org. Through December 27.
Rated 4.0

This classic fairy tale (first published in French in the 1700s) has been variously adapted as the film classic by Jean Cocteau (1946—and if you’ve never seen it, you should), an animated Disney movie (1991), and a Philip Glass opera (1994, as music for the Cocteau film).

Now we have the B Street Theatre’s Family Series version—which playwright Dave Pierini has customized with a few Christmas and New Year’s references. It’s this year’s “holiday surprise.”

It’s a charming show—geared to enchant kids, but sophisticated enough to keep adults happily onboard. The largely professional cast includes actor and director John Lamb as snooty Prince Tristan, who offends a meandering crone (Amy Kelly). In revenge, the crone transforms Tristan into the Beast (Michael Stevenson, in an effective mask and wig) and servant Pascal (comic specialist Greg Alexander) into a dog. There’s also an old man (reliable Ed Claudio), his generous daughter Belle (intern Emily Killian) and self-serving daughter Magette (Kelly). Nancy Pipkin’s costumes and Samantha Reno’s set add a lot.

The challenge in a show like this is to strike the right balance in presenting the Beast—he needs to represent a degree of menace, ugliness and angry impulse. But you don’t want to scare the children to the point that they need to leave the theater. Playwright Pierini, director Lamb and actor Stevenson get it just right.

The other challenge is to illuminate the love that slowly blossoms between Belle and the Beast without putting off the kiddies who think that holding hands and kissing are pretty icky. And again, this production hits the right balance; there is very nice chemistry between Stevenson and Killian (and here’s hoping we’ll see Killian in other roles). This 90-minute production also has possibilities as a teen-date opportunity, as well as a show for grandparents and kids to see together. It’s a love fable, well told.