Jenna Lea Rosen was born to play Belle.
The actor, who stars in the Moonlight Amphitheatre’s production of “Beauty and the Beast,” came into the world while her parents were on the road performing in the production’s first national tour, which opened in late 1995 and closed in 1999. Rosen was born in 1998.
“My mother (Heather Hoppus) played one of the Silly Girls and worked until she was six months pregnant with me,” said Rosen, who calls Seal Beach home. “My father (Grant Rosen) was the Stunt Beast on the tower and a swing (an understudy for multiple roles). My parents have done many national tours all over the world.”
Rosen’s theatrical roots extend even further. Her grandmother owned a song-and-dance studio in Orange County for 35 years, so Rosen grew up with the performing arts. Her first role, when she was 4 years old, was Molly in “Annie.”
“(The studio) was the most wonderful environment to grow up in,” she said. “I loved performing. It’s all I ever wanted to do. Playing Belle is a dream come true for me. She was my favorite Disney character and (the production) has one of the best scores in musical theater. I haven’t been on a stage in over 15 months, so to be able to come back and play Belle has been so wonderful.”
Judging by the enthusiasm of the opening night audience, some of them dressed as Belle lookalikes, this “Beauty and the Beast” could sell out. In fact, two shows have already been added to the schedule.
From the opening bars, Rosen’s voice maintains a smooth clarity that blankets the night air like a magic mist. Her co-cast members are just as remarkable. Michael Deni puts forth a Beast with a range of emotions and a voice with full reverberation.
Michael Paternostro (Lumiere) and Jerald Vincent (Cogsworth), both veterans of earlier “Beauty and the Beast” productions, with Bets Malone (Mrs. Potts), keep the story moving with their rhythmic and humorous banter and energetic songs.
The audience can’t seem to get enough of Evan White’s self-centered, obnoxious, chauvinistic Gaston, whose preening and double-jointed strut are scene-stealers. Zane Camacho, who plays Gaston’s partner in crime, Lefou, is possibly the most athletic person on stage. He takes a marathon of punches, hits, trips and falls, and still manages to bounce back.
Throughout “Beast,” the cast works like a joyful, well-oiled, music-and-dance machine. The ensemble pulls off some amazing dance numbers (credit choreographer Bill Burns), especially considering many of the cast of 35 are outfitted in awkward costumes that transform them into household items. Think clock, candelabra, teapot, flatware, dishes, chest of drawers, and salt and pepper shakers.
One lucky, talented ensemble member demonstrates that even cheese graters can get their groove on.
Rousing numbers that leave you wanting more are “Be Our Guest” (reminiscent of the elaborate Busby Berkeley musicals); “Gaston,” which cleverly uses beer steins to accentuate the beat; and “Human Again.”
Kudos to the lighting designer (Jean-Yves Tessier), sound designer (Jim Zadai) and projection designer (Jonathan Infante) for creating an environment that gives us France in the mid-1700s with favorable enhancements.
For tickets, visit www.moonlightstage.com or call (760) 724-2110.