Community Players Offers Beauty and the Beast as Summer Musical

by Bob McLaughlin and John Lieder
It may not be a tale as old as time—the most familiar versions are based on Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont’s mid-eighteenth-century telling—but it’s a tale that has resonated over the years. Community Players will tell this tale for the ages this July when it presents Disney’s Beauty and the Beast as its summer musical. The story is a simple one: for his arrogance and selfishness, a handsome prince is turned into a hideous beast; he can never be restored to himself until he is loved and learns to love in return. Enter Belle, a pretty and smart young woman whom the Beast imprisons. The castle’s servants, who are gradually turning into inanimate objects as part of the curse, hope for the impossible: that the mismatched pair may fall in love.
After a couple of false starts, Disney released an animated version of this tale in 1991, filling it with unforgettable characters like the Beast, Belle, valet-turned-candlestick Lumiere, chief-of-staff-now-clock Cogsworth, and cook-turned-teapot Mrs. Potts. They also filled it with unforgettable songs by Howard Ashman and Alan Menken, who had previously written the music for The Little Mermaid. Sadly, Ashman died of AIDS just before the film’s release. The film was enormously successful, earning a Best Picture Oscar nomination, the first ever for an animated film.
Shortly thereafter, Disney, eager to break into the Broadway musical business, chose Beauty and the Beast for its first stage adaptation. Linda Woolverton, who had written the screenplay, was brought on to write the book. Ashman and Menken’s score was augmented with some new numbers by Menken and Tim Rice. It opened on April 18, 1994, at the Palace Theater and ran for 5,461 performances. After some initial skepticism on the part of the Broadway community, Disney found a home in Times Square, and the success of Beauty and the Beast paved the way for such other Disney musicals as The Lion King, The Little Mermaid, Aida, Tarzan, Mary Poppins, and Aladdin. Meanwhile, the success of the stage show has inspired Disney to make a new live-action version of Beauty and the Beast, which stars Emma Watson and is scheduled to be released in 2017.
In our production, Alan Wilson takes on this enchanting musical as director. JoLynn Robinson is Music Director, and Sally Baugh doubles up responsibilities as Producer and House Manager. Alex Lovel is also doing double-duty as Choreographer and Assistant Director. Other members of the staff are Dorothy Mundy (Props Designer), Judy Stroh and Christian West (Stage Managers), Rich Plotkin (Sound Engineer), Lizzie Neal (Sound Technician), Brett Cottone (Lighting Designer), Alek McMath (Lighting Technician), Pam Martinez (Video Technician) and Dave Fuller (Scenic Paint Design/Master Artist).
Of course, costumes are an especially important aspect of this production and so our costume staff includes four people with costuming experience: Alan Wilson, JoLynn Robinson, Jennifer Maloy, and Eddy Arteman. The castle staff costumes were rented from Heartland Costumes of Peoria.
Designed by Director Alan Wilson, the set consists of several rolling pieces with the Beast’s room set stage right and Belle’s room set opposite stage left. It provides ample space for the sizable cast.
Leading the cast are Kiera Martin as our heroine, Belle, with Sean Stevens as The Beast. Dave Holliday plays Belle’s father, Maurice. Alex Knightwright portrays the brawny Gaston with Mario Silva as his diminutive sidekick, Lefou.
Members of the enchanted castle include Joe McDonald as Lumiere, Jennifer Stevens as Mrs. Potts, Missy Freese as Babette, Jaden Ward as Chip, Erica O’Neill as Madame De La Grande Bouche, and Tom Smith as Cogsworth. (Tom also portrayed Cogsworth in the 2006 production. We believe he is the only repeat performer from that cast.)
Other townspeople include Trisha Bagby, Mary Cate Hansen, and Cally Robertson as the three Silly Girls and Nathan Brandon Gaik as Monsieur D’Arque.
Billy Blue plays the pre-enchanted Prince. 
Company members include Wendi Ayers, Maria Bicknell, Chris Bolden, Duncan Borkholder, Kyle Boward, Molly Cargill, Bev Collins, Christina Dean, Jessica Dolan, Becca Faulkner, Ashleigh Feger, Adelaide (Addi) Groves, Lisa Groves, Abby Hammer, Scarlett Hammer, Stella Hammer, Trinity Harris, Josie Hauck, Rosie Hauck, Katie Helwig, Dayle Hennenfent, Garbrielle Hursey, McKenna Jensen, Jason LaRose, Alex Lovel, Ethan Maloy, Jason Maloy, Jennifer Maloy, Natalie Maloy, Vanessa Martinez, Abby Naden, Elaine Nussbaum, Hannah Perhai, Ian Roberds, Cullen Scurlock, Tiffany Tackett, Cole Turner, Christie Vellella, Devon Walker, Kendall Walls, and Samuel James Willis.
This very family-friendly show runs three weekends in July (July 8-10, 14-17 & 21-24) with a pay-what-you-can preview on Thursday, July 7. As usual, Thursday, Friday and Saturday performances are 7:30 pm and Sunday performances are at 2:30 pm.


Photos by John Lieder