Children’s Theater production is a story for all ages
The classic story of “Beauty and the Beast,” with themes of love, greed and deceiving appearances, will be brought to life by young actors in a musical production of the Tom Zbyszewski Children’s Theater.
The show opens on Friday (March 10) at The Merc Playhouse in Twisp, featuring 25 young thespians, ages 8-14. The children’s theater production offers an original version of the story of a selfish prince who is transformed into a beast by a powerful witch. Her spell will remain in place until the beast can find someone who will love him for who he is.
The show is directed by Jane Orme, who is teaming up with choreographer Missi Smith for their fifth children’s theater production at The Merc. They have created a musical score using a variety of music, much of which will be familiar to audiences, Orme said.
The script for the show is adapted by the playwright from the original French story — not the Disney version, Orme said. That allows more freedom in the local production, she said.
“Some of the characters are different and we have lots of leeway with music and dances,” Orme said. “I like to choose music that works with the show. It can come from a lot of different genres. I will say 1970s and ’80s music dominates, and the young actors know the music well. They love learning the dances that Missi creates.”
Story for all ages
“Beauty and the Beast” is an appealing choice for a children’s theater production, Orme said, “because it is a story for all ages — cast and audience. It works with the younger actors as well as the older ones,” she said. “There are a number of themes, but one that I think resonates is finding the good in yourself and others.”
Orme asked the actors for their interpretations of the play’s themes, and they provided some thoughtful perspectives.
“I think one of the main themes is discovering who you are and how to improve that person. The Beast find(s) love by improving himself,” said Asher Fisher, an eighth-grade student.
“Looks can be deceiving. There is a monster in everyone,” said Azmun Pixie-Plott, a fourth-grader.
“I think a theme in ‘Beauty and the Beast’ is love. Though many characters are greedy, Beauty has love for her mom, the Beast and even her sisters, who are rude to her,” said Declan Acosta-Smith, a fifth-grade student.
“Greed is what makes beastly people, not appearances,” explained eighth-grader Elliott Pixie-Plott. “Some want … what they don’t have, some don’t want what they need, some want for others, and some only want more for themselves alone. You will encounter these people whose beast is within.”
The play is set in France, long ago. The actors have learned some French words and phrases, and how to pronounce them correctly, which has challenged them and helps make the setting authentic, Orme said.
The story takes place in a castle and in a farmyard. Beauty, her sisters, their husbands, Beauty’s mother, and Brutus the farm dog live in the country. The rest of the characters — Beast, the princesses, the captain, staff, and castle furniture — inhabit the castle. Meanwhile, the witch and Rose Legend lurk here and there.
Lots of collaboration
The children began rehearsals in early January and have been rehearsing three times a week after school. Some of the actors were also in the previous children’s theater production, “The Nutcracker,” so they have been rehearsing or performing since September, Orme said. For other children this is their first show.
The production’s stage manager is Amanda Fine; Darla Hussey is the costumer and face painter; Autumn Jateff and Shannon Cramer are seamstresses; Stephen Kish is the technical director; Dean Hussey is sound technician, Phil Quevillon is lighting technician; and Betsy Kieckhaefer is the stage designer.
Orme, a former English and drama teacher at Liberty Bell High School, and Smith, previously executive director of The Merc, have a longstanding collaboration as director and choreographer for children’s musicals. In addition to the children’s theater shows at The Merc, they have also worked together at summer drama camps and Cub Club Theater after-school programs.
“Beauty and the Beast” continues through March 26. Show time is 7 p.m. on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, and 2 p.m. on Sundays. Doors open 30 minutes prior to show time. There are two “admission by donation” performances, both on Thursdays, March 16 and 23. Tickets for all other performances are $18 in advance and $20 at the door for adults, and $5 for youths. Advance tickets can be purchased online at brownpapertickets.com/event/5733187.