A beastly family affair

A tale as old as time is coming to the South Bay. Only this production of “Beauty and the Beast” is a true family affair.

When the musical opens next month at Heritage Theater in Campbell, the cast, crew and orchestra will include moms and dads, sons and daughters — a true community theater production.

A presentation of the Addison-Penzak Jewish Community Center of Silicon Valley, “Beauty and the Beast” is based on the 1991 Disney animated feature.

The stage version opened on Broadway in 1994 and featured the classic score by eight-time Oscar-winning composer Alan Mencken, along with several new songs. “Beauty and the Beast” became one of the longest-running musicals in Broadway history.

The local production features a cast and chorus of 50, spanning ages 7 to 75 and representing such communities as Los Gatos, Campbell, Cupertino, Milpitas, Los Altos, Palo Alto, Newark, Santa Clara and San Jose.

For singer and actress Rachel Michelberg of San Jose, the show presents a golden opportunity to do something fun with her 8-year-old daughter Hannah.

“She likes to tell me what to do and boss me around during rehearsals,” says Michelberg, who plays Mrs. Potts (the teapot character played by Angela Lansbury in the Disney film). “It’s wonderful to see her blossom.”

Hannah plays Chip, the little teacup/offspring of Mrs. Potts. She might turn out to be a chip off the old block herself, as her mom is a trained classical singer and veteran of local companies like Pocket Opera and Opera San Jose. She is also a cantorial soloist with Temple Emanuel in San Jose and Peninsula Temple Beth El in San Mateo. Her children attend Yavneh Jewish Day School in San Jose.

Though she’s more accustomed to singing arias by Puccini and Bellini, Michelberg loves performing in the show. “I’m pretty particular when it comes to music, coming from a classical background,” she says. “It’s a wonderful score. Alan Mencken is an amazing composer.”

Ken Abrams of Campbell echoes the sentiment. “The movie is wonderful,” he says, “but the stage play is better.” Abrams plays Lumiere the candelabra (he sings “Be Our Guest”), while his daughters Allison and 8-year-old Carolyn also join him in the cast.

“Carolyn plays a gold spoon,” says Abrams. “She’s flatware. Allison plays four small roles and is in the kids’ chorus. It’s the first experience in theater for both of them.”

Like Michelberg, Abrams is also a cantorial soloist, working at Congregation Shir Hadash in Los Gatos. The former software engineer has also served as a song leader at Jewish day camps.

His daughter Allison, 13, who recently had her bat mitzvah, enjoys doing the show as a family. “It’s actually pretty fun when we perform together,” she says. “I didn’t know he could dance and act. It was cool.”

“Am I a kooky dad?” he asks rhetorically. “Yeah, they’re used to that. But this experience teaches them a lot about being quiet for long periods of time and about cooperation. They see how the adults work.”

As much as Abrams enjoys the quality time with his daughters (the cast rehearses at the local JCC three times a week), he cites another big winner in the process. “The biggest person affected is my wife,” he says. “She gets time alone at home. But she also says she can step into a chorus role at any time: She’s memorized all the songs.”

“Beauty and the Beast” plays 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 1; 8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 3; 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 4 at Heritage Theatre, 1 West Campbell Ave., Campbell. Tickets: $12-$54. Information: (408) 866-2700.

Dan Pine

Dan Pine is a contributing editor at J. He was a longtime staff writer at J. and retired as news editor in 2020.