The interlude between the end of April and beginning of May signals the traditional rising up of a real Red Bank institution — Phoenix Productions, the borough-based theatrical company that for more than two decades has presented its musical entertainments on the boards of one of the region’s most legendary stages: the Count Basie Theatre.
This Saturday sees the curtain go up on the first of the 2017 offerings from the Phoenix fun factory — and, it as they did with last year’s season-opening production of The Little Mermaid, the troupe will be delving into the Disney Broadway playbook for a fresh and family-friendly staging of the romantic fantasy perennial, Beauty and the Beast.
Adapted from the hugely successful 1991 animated film — itself remade as a live-action multiplex extravaganza last year — the 1994 theatrical musical spearheaded the Disney juggernaut’s lucrative Broadway adventure, introducing the French fairytale-as-old-as-time to a new generation, and reinforcing the popular score (including “Be Our Guest” and the title tune) by Alan Menken and the late Howard Ashman, with additional songs featuring lyrics by longtime Lloyd Webber collaborator Tim Rice.
As recent Phoenix seasons have upped the ante on the company’s stagecraft and production values, the shows have boasted casts whose young stars are drawn from communities all around the region — with the greatest lure being the thrill of performing on the same stage that’s hosted so many showbiz icons. Starring as the brave and bookish Belle at the Basie is Lauren Sodono, seen above. Michael McEntee takes on the role of the prince who’s doomed to live his life as a grotesque Beast unless he learns to love and be loved.
The supporting cast features such Phoenix regulars as David Fusco (the hunky but arrogant Gaston), Casey Okamoto (sidekick Lefou) and Michael Dalberg (Belle’s inventor father Maurice) — and the enchanted household of friendly furnishings includes Chris Lorenc (Lumiere), Jordan Gilbert (Babette), Mark Regan Jr. (Cogsworth), Patricia Kelly (Madame De La Grande Bouche), Suzanne Ramsey-Restivo (Mrs. Potts), plus Nadia Heslin and Liam Pollock (platooning in the role of Chip).
The Phoenix production of Beauty and the Beast opens at 8 p.m., with additional performances on April 30 (3 p.m.), May 5 (8 p.m.), May 6 (2 and 8 p.m.), and May 7 (3 p.m.). Take it here to reserve tickets ($22 – $32) to any of the individual shows, or go here for additional information on other upcoming shows and programs from Phoenix Productions.