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Beauties and beasts will enjoy this show

Greetings, Natchez and the Miss-Lou.

It is hard to believe that Natchez Little Theatre’s 63rd season, celebrating 78 years of entertainment is about to begin with the Disney musical, “Beauty and the Beast.” With music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice and book by Linda Woolverton, Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” is based on the traditional French fairy tale from the mid-18th century.

Walt Disney Pictures released the animated film, “Beauty and the Beast,” in November 1991, and went on to win best song and best original score, making history as the first animated film to be nominated for the best picture Oscar. On April 18, 1994, “Beauty and the Beast” opened on Broadway at the Palace Theatre running for 13 years (5,461 performances).

Once upon a time in a faraway land, an Enchantress, played by Shelby Stokes of New Orleans, turns a cruel, unfeeling Prince into a hideous Beast, played by NLT veteran Dwight Williams. To break the spell, the Beast must learn to love another and earn her love before the last petal falls from an enchanted rose.

Ten year’s later, in a small village below the Beast’s castle, a beautiful and intelligent young woman, Belle, played Rodney resident and Millsaps student Gabrielle Richardson, yearns for something more than her provincial life. On his way to show his invention at a fair, Belle’s father, Maurice, played by Don Vesterse, gets lost and seeks shelter in a castle, where enchanted servants try to make him comfortable, but the Beast imprisons the intruder.

Meanwhile, Gaston, Clayton’s Trey Price, the village brute proposes to Belle, who turns him down. When Belle sees Gaston’s sidekick, Lefou, played by Rudy Timm of Natchez, wearing her father’s scarf, Belle runs off in search of him. Belle finds her missing father at the castle and offers herself in exchange for his freedom.

The servants, played by Morgan Farrar as Cogsworth, Darrick Little as Lumiere, Danielle Thornton as Mrs. Potts, Colby Passman as Chip, Marylee Williams as Babette and Alethea Shelton as Madame la Grande Bouche, coach the Beast on how to act like a gentleman, failing miserably. Belle flees the castle and is attacked by wolves. The Beast saves her but is wounded in the process. Belle helps the Beast back to castle and nurses his wounds. The servants recognize something different between Belle and the Beast and dare to hope that the spell may soon be broken.

This production is produced in cooperation with and stars the participants of NLT’s 2010 Summer Youth Workshop as well as NLT adult actors. This summer’s workshop was the largest in its five year history. Featured in “Beauty and the Beast” are Beverly Adams, Chalib Baker, Khyri Baker, Katie Borum, Danielle Brown, Averee Burnham, Sydney Eidt, Morgan Farrar, Jessi Green, Victoria Green, Hannah Hargis, Wade Heatherly, Emily Hicks, Erin Hicks, John Ashton Hicks, Barbara Hoskins, Shekinah Hoskins, Hannah Jenkins, Jaelin Jones, Alanna Kelly, Rachel Lindsey, Arden McMillin, Avery McMillin, Eden McMillin, Conner Mire, Hannah Mire, Shelby Mize, Piper Mophett, Amelia Orlando, Raenetta Robinson, Davis Sharp, Taylor Spring, Samantha Steed, Zoe Steed, Ann Sternberg, Karlee Stewart and Hannah Thompson.

Assisting me with the production has been Kathleen Mackey King, musical director; Rho Baker, assistant director, and Sydney Eidt and Jessi Green, choreography, with assistant choreographer, Rachel Lindsey. Don Vesterse has aided with set design and done all the set decoration. The costumes are the creation of the cast with help from San-Jay’s Creations, Don Vesterse and NLT.

“Beauty and the Beast” has a benefit preview performance at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, with $10 tickets and all proceeds going to NLT’s Summer Youth Workshop. Opening night is Thursday, and the show runs Friday and Saturday, at 7:30 p.m. and closes Sunday, with a 2 p.m. matinee. All tickets are $15 and should be reserved in advance at 601-442-2233; toll free at 1-877-440-2233 or purchase online at www.natcheztheatre.org.

I hope to see you at Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast.”

Layne Taylor is the NLT artistic and executive director and director of “Beauty and the Beast.”

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