When soundboard issues forced Maine State Music Theatre to cancel both preview performances of “Beauty and the Beast,” some wondered if the production – like the musical’s beloved Disney characters – might be cursed. When Mother Nature unleashed a violent rainstorm Thursday, it seemed almost certain. Despite everything, the production opened Thursday night, dispelling the curse with a fairytale performance that was all-out enchanting.

Magic was in the air from the moment the curtain opened to reveal a red rose elegantly twirling like a dancer as the orchestra, under the direction of Brian Cimmet, performed the well-known prologue.

It was a teaser for the spellbinding score and production in store for the audience, including a performance of “Be Our Guest” that was not only vocally beautiful, but also visually stunning. Choreographed by co-director Marc Robin and artistic director Curt Dale Clark, the high-energy dance number featured acrobatic flatware, a high-flying carpet (Michael Olaribigbe) and a captivating tap-dance number.

Under the co-direction of Robin and Clark, Maine State Music Theatre vividly brings Disney’s timeless classic to Brunswick. The production closely follows the 1991 animated film and 2017 live action film starring Dan Stevens and Emma Watson.

It’s the story of a handsome prince (Darick Pead) and a beautiful girl named Belle (Lexi Rabadi), who dreams of adventures beyond her provincial town. Cursed by an enchantress (Jessie Lawyer) to live as a horrific beast, the Prince – with the help of his enchanted household – must learn to love and in turn find someone who can love him despite his appearance. Only then can he break the curse and find his happily ever after.

Costume designer Ryan Moller and wig designer Gerald James Kelly have transformed Pead into the beast with a lion-like mane, twisted horns, prominent bottom canine teeth and a wide-bridged nose that hides his handsome features. The costuming nicely contrasts with Belle’s girl-next-door look, complete with long brown hair, tied back with a ribbon. And their ballroom attire at the end is awe-inspiring.

Pead brings out the humor of his character, revealing the petulant and insecure young man beneath the beastly exterior and terrifying growls. He humanizes the Beast, delivering a particularly moving rendition of “If I Can’t Love Her” that is reminiscent of Javert’s heartbreaking demise in “Les Miserables.”

Rabadi is a breath of fresh air as Belle, capturing both her willful spirit and pure heart. Her gorgeous vocals truly live up to her character’s name, soaring high and free like a songbird on such memorable songs as “Belle” and “Home.”

It’s an impressive 32-member cast, with countless scene-stealers. James Patterson shines brightly as the Prince’s French maitre d’, Lumiere, who has been turned into a candelabra. Last seen starring in “Chamberlain” in 2014, Patterson delivers a polar-opposite performance as the flamboyant Lumiere, offering up an abundance of heart and fun as he interacts with the delightful John Reeger as the butler-turned-clock, Cogsworth.

All the beloved characters vibrantly come to life on the stage. Paula Scrofano is the teapot, Mrs. Potts, with the adorable Aymeric Dauge-Roth as her teacup son, Chip. Susan Moniz and Bria Jene’ Williams add flair as the operatic wardrobe, Madame de la Grand Bouche, and the French feather duster, Babette. Returning favorite Glenn Anderson lends a touching performance as Belle’s father, Maurice.

Of course, the story wouldn’t be complete without a villain. Matthew Ragas is thoroughly entertaining as Belle’s pompous suitor, Gaston, singing such wonderfully over-the-top songs as “Me.” Ethan Carlson is a real treat as his foolish sidekick, Lefou, delivering nonstop comic antics and astounding feats of agility.

A 22-member ensemble, which includes three children and nine outstanding performance interns, rounds out the amazing cast.

With underlying messages of acceptance and tolerance throughout, “Beauty and the Beast” is a wonderful production for theatergoers of all ages. Maine State Music Theatre delivers an unforgettable rendition that’s sure to make both the young and old believe in magic and the power of love.

April Boyle is a freelance writer from Casco. Contact her at:

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Twitter: @ahboyle

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