Written and directed by Ken Parks, with music by Parks and Rick Illes, for the All American Melodrama Theater & Music Hall, “Snooty and the Beast,” represents the theatrical equivalent of “Goofus and Gallant,” the life lesson found in each issue of the Highlights for Children magazine, Legible and fun for children, it’s even funnier for adults. Our heroine, for instance, is named Belle or she’s called Beauty – never just one. Why? Because of the ever-present threat of legal action by Disney. Along with children, we also learn to deal with unpleasant people. Wouldn’t it be nice to simply boo and hiss office Machiavellis and bumptious bosses instead of plotting bottom line- and morale-sapping revenge?
The story sets up quickly, the issue’s clear. Prince Edward Overheels (Ken White) vies with his evil stepmother Urika Garlic (Dawn Stahlak) for the fortune left by their recently-deceased King. The King leaves but one stipulation: If Edward falls in love within a prescribed amount of time, he inherits the kingdom; if he doesn’t, it reverts to Urika. Easy, right? Not only is Edward stalwart and handsome, sensitive and honest, his voice (White’s voice) is mesmerizing and captivating. Problem is, Urika, devious and shrew-like, has turned The Girl Most Likely to Marry Edward, Beauty or Belle (Amber Hubbard) into the most overbearing girl this side of the San Fernando Valley. Though we have no doubt who will triumph – in melodramas, we never do –it’s the unfolding of the struggle that makes the production so successful.
The story is fall-down-the-stairs funny. Rousing and spirited, always over the top, it keeps us in stitches, beginning with the first song, “Legally Allowable Tale,” which explains why Beauty or Belle can’t consistently be called one or the other. The production is well-paced, metronomed by Jimmy Dunn’s saloon-style piano playing and punctuated by our boos, yays, and aws. Despite the predictable outcome, we’re happy when it occurs, for it confirms what we at least hope on stage if not in real life, that the good guys will win.
The acting rocks. Stahlak’s Urika reeks with unpleasantness. Greedy, covetous, and jealous, she presents us with what we imagine to be the face behind horrible telephone customer service. She’s cranky, loud, and snarky, in short, she doesn’t have one redeeming quality. She’s self-conscious of her unpleasantness, proud, in fact: to make Beauty or Belle undesirable to Edward, she clones herself.
When Hubbard’s Beauty or Belle is sweet, she’s either Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm or Shirley Temple: earnest, sincere, and squeaky clean, as if she’s been polished with Lemon Pledge. As the clone-of-Urika, though (the transformation’s magnificent), she’s whiny and pouty, with a voice that could make satellites fall out of the sky. White’s Edward makes us older folk think of Dudley Do-Right from the Rocky and Bullwinkle Show. For those a few generations younger, think of Edward Cullen, from the Twilight series. He exudes humility and forthrightness, as befits a melodrama Hero. His manners seem to come from long, long ago.
The little touches are memorable. Urika consults a Magic Mirror, set above the stage, as to how best thrwart the union of Edward and Beauty or Belle. Of course the Mirror resembles an iPad, of course it has an app to turn a girl next door into a b&*%h. Besides the requisite enchanted castle there’s a place called The Horse You Rode Inn, wherein dwells the Beast (White). And tweeting is conducted, yes, with a crow that drops from the ceiling ala The Groucho Marx show.
Performances are 7:30 pm, Friday and Saturday, 4:30 pm Saturday and 7:00 pm Sunday. The play runs until November 6. Tickets are $14-20. The Theater is located at 429 Shoreline Village Drive, Long Beach. For more information call (562) 495-5900or visit www.allamericanmelodrama.com.