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THEATER REVIEW : Show Turns Beauty Into a Bit of a Beast : The self-absorbed heroine lies around waiting for romance, and the stepsister and stepmother do all the work.


A new "Beauty and the Beast" has come to Southern California, and fans of the recent Disney animated feature and live-action stage musical won't recognize it. Once again, the Moorpark Melodrama folks are turning a classic story on its head, adding popular songs and corny jokes. It's "Beauty and the Beast--Really!" and runs through mid-September.

This Beauty, in a production based on Rick Abbott's script, is the spoiled stepchild of a farmer and his wife. While Beauty (that's her name) suns herself in the back yard waiting for a rich husband to come along, her mother and dowdy stepsister Lulu do all the work, cheerfully enough, if slightly resentfully. Fate finds Beauty (and, for that matter, Lulu, Father and the family dog) meeting the Beast. Hilarity and the requisite lesson about the true meaning of Beauty ensue.

All of this is peppered, per Melodrama tradition, with song and dance numbers, whether or not the music has anything to do with the show. Is the fact that "Castin' My Spell" has nothing to do with the situation at hand going to keep the Beast (Beau Crose) from belting out an obscure old Johnny Otis hit? Not at the Moorpark Melodrama, you can bet. Where else in town are you going to hear a version of Redbone's "Witch Queen of New Orleans"? Certainly not in concert with Sondheim, the Gershwins and "Mister Sandman" as it's heard here.

This edition of the show, which first ran at the Melodrama a couple of years ago, is especially notable for its introduction of a cast that's almost entirely new to the facility. And while there's certainly nothing wrong with the Moorpark regulars, it's always nice to see some new faces among the familiar.

Among the welcome newcomers are Faunda Hinton as self-involved Beauty, Chrissy Hurt as Lulu and Roger Alan Erickson as the dog, Sam. The two old-timers are Elaine Raleigh as the girls' mother, and Ami Shupe as the engagingly clumsy showgirl who distracts the audience with her, um, distinctive tap dancing between acts.

Steve Robertson directed, with choreography by Linda Bredemann and Sara Wilkey; Mark Holstrom is the alert musical director and keyboardist, and the Melodrama's public address system's quality seems to have improved appreciably since the last show. Those who haven't been to the Melodrama yet should regard "Beauty and the Beast--Really!" as a fine first visit; regulars should find the show to be among the company's best.


* WHAT: "Beauty and the Beast--Really!"

* WHEN: Thursdays at 7 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. Matinees Saturdays and Sundays at 3 p.m. Runs through Sept. 16.

* WHERE: Magnificent Moorpark Melodrama & Vaudeville Company Theater, 45 E. High St. in Moorpark.

* COST: All seats for all shows, $12; except Thursday nights, all seats $8. Group rates are available for some performances. Visa and MasterCard accepted.

* FYI: Reservations are recommended at all times. For reservations or further information, call 529-1212.

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