ORLANDO — Brandon Roberts is a theatrical wonder.
The veteran actor’s comedic skills have been keeping Central Florida audiences laughing for ages, but he may have found his greatest platform in children’s theater. That truism was enjoyably on display Saturday during the matinee performance of Beauty And The Beast, the summer children’s production at the Orlando Shakespeare Theater.
The classic fairy tale, which Roberts adapted for this new production, gives him the ideal format for doing the two things he does best: giving a delightfully comedic and larger than life performance, and finding ways to keep tiny ones in the theater engaged and entertained. He accomplished both with flying colors. From the opening moments of the play, when Roberts, playing the bumbling inventor Papa, walks out on stage with his glasses on his forehead and starts asking, “Now where did I leave my glasses?” the kids in the audience were already having a field day telling him those glasses were right on his forehead. It only got better from there.
How does Orlando Shakes Re-imagine Beauty And The Beast?
Beauty And The Beast, now being performed in the Goldman Theater at the Lowndes Shakespeare Center, follows the original fairy tale closely enough, with Papa and his sweet daughter Belle leaving their cottage to go to market to see if they can sell Papa’s new invention. But a storm forces Papa and Belle to take refuge in a majestic castle that happens to be inhabited by an angry Beast.
At first startled by the Beast’s ferocious attitude, Belle starts to see positive inner qualities to this creature.
From the nicely mounted sets to some magical visual and sound effects, director Patrick Braillard keeps the play moving at an enjoyably fast pace — and this may be one of the most adult-friendly children’s shows in a while, one where the grown ups are as likely as the kids to be laughing at Roberts’ jokes. Clocking in at just 50 minutes, it’s a show where the little ones are unlikely to get bored, especially since the actors invites kids from the audience to come up on stage several times to get some fairy dust on their hands and then help out with the show.
But the most appealing aspect of the production is definitely the performers. In addition to Roberts, Lizzy Allen is a sympathetic and instantly likable Belle, Kadesh Lewis has a grand roar and snarl as the Beast, and Megan Borkes steals scenes with panache playing both Belle’s petulant sister Blanche and the Beast’s wise servant Mrs. Granville.
If you as a parent groan at the thought of being dragged to a kid’s theater show, fear not: this one is great fun for all ages.
Where is Beauty And The Beast Being Performed?
Beauty And The Beast is being performed at the theater at 812 E. Rollins St. in Orlando’s Loch Haven Park. The show will run through July 24.
For tickets and more information, call 407-447-1700.
Michael Freeman is an Orlando journalist, playwright, and author of the book When I Woke Up, You Were All Dead. Contact him at Freelineorlando@gmail.com.