‘Tale as Old as Time’

A model of the intricate set for Brunswick Little Theatre’s ‘Beauty and the Beast.’ Courtesy photo

A model of the intricate set for Brunswick Little Theatre’s ‘Beauty and the Beast.’ Courtesy photo

What: ‘Beauty and the Beast’
When: July 26-28, August 2-4
Fri.-Sat., 7:30 p.m. • Sun., 3 p.m.
Where: Odell Williamson Auditorium
50 College Rd. NE, Bolivia
Cost: $6-17
Info: (910) 755-7416

The musical “Beauty and the Beast” is based on the well-known animated Disney movie that was released in 1991. The film has been deemed a classic by audiences worldwide, and the musical version has been performed for many years since its creation in 1993. This summer, Brunswick Little Theatre will present the family-friendly production at Odell Williamson Auditorium.

The musical and movie are based on the French fairytale “La Belle et La Bête,” a story of a young prince who is put under a curse by an enchantress. The spell transforms him into a beast for his past as a heartless human.

The story also focuses on a young woman, Belle, who is discontent with life in her small town. The two characters cross paths due to an ill-fated event, which results in Belle’s imprisonment by the beast. In order for the spell to be broken—for the beast to become human again—he must learn to love Belle and earn her love in return before the final petal from his enchanted rose falls. Along with the help of some comical characters, who have also been transformed under this curse, the Beast must learn how to care about others before time runs out.

Debbie Skillman, director of the show, details what the audience can anticipate from the musical. “Beautiful music and movement performed by a talented cast and crew, special effects, and a magnificent set,” she assures. “They can expect an experience that will delight their senses and send them out of the theater feeling enthralled. Costumes for this show are being rented from a reputable costumer in Philadelphia. The costumes will not disappoint and will add to the aesthetic.”

Skillman explains “Beauty and the Beast” was selected because of its score, which  will be performed live by the pit band comprised of 11 musicians. It also offers a family appeal and immediate recognition of the title. “In addition, the theme of redemptive love is one of mankind’s and literatures greatest expressions of hope and grace,” Skillman shares.

The set was conceived by the show’s scenic designer, Paul Bertelsen, inspired by the 1946 Jean Cocteau film of the same name. The set plays a huge role in determining the aesthetic for the overall production. Skillman notes that “Beauty and the Beast” is based on a fairy tale, and the set should reflect that fantasy. “Keep in mind the Disney name is associated with this show, and audiences have high expectations,” she asserts.

A tremendous amount of preparation goes into creating a musical like this. Skillman informs that everyone involved works hard and does their homework by researching details to make a show like this a special experience for its audience. “Untold hours” are two words that come to mind as Skillman describes the amount of time spent on the planning and organization of this show.

First the director needs to read the script and determine the feasibility. Then she will write up a proposal with an estimated budget and submit it to the Board of Directors for approval. In order to create this budget, the director has to research the show thoroughly and have a vision for taking it to the stage. Before presenting the proposal to the board, the director needs to find a scenic designer, musical director, choreographer, and special effects coordinator who are willing and able to serve on the production staff.

“This is the tip of the iceberg,” Skillman confirms. The production staff meets with scripts in hand, and the director shares her vision. Then the staff talks through all the challenges presented. “Our first production meeting was held in January of this year and lasted over five hours,” she exclaims. “Let’s just say a lot of work and hours are devoted to the show before casting.”

Once the show is cast, then the teaching of music, blocking, and choreography begin. There are five huge ensemble numbers and lots of music. For every hour the cast spends in rehearsal, the choreographer will spend at least four to five hours creating movement.

During the rehearsal period, the scenic designer and the crew of carpenters and painters are working; the special effects coordinator is creating and testing effects; the pit band begins rehearsals. The director manages rehearsal schedules to maximize time. “Throughout all this, there are several more production meetings and constant communication with the choreographer,” Skillman adds.

The revenue from ticket sales will go toward covering the costs of the show, which include rental of the venue, costumes, show licensing and rental fees, set construction and transportation, acquisition of props, and programs. If revenue exceeds the cost of the production, it is used for future shows.

“Beauty and the Beast” promises to be enjoyed by young and old alike. Tickets are $17 for adults, $12 for students over 12 (with ID for college students), and $6 for children under 12.

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