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Friday, July 10th, 2009

Time Event
4:11p
Beauty and the Beast
Tonight at 7:30 the curtain goes up on the West Allis Players/Village
Playhouse of Wauwatosa joint production of "Disney's Beauty and the
Beast," the stage musical adapted from the 1991 animated film. Having
not been in musicals since "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the
Forum," I thought I'd try out, since I love the movie (nominated for
"Best Picture" before they had a separate category for animation) and
Belle is my all-time favorite Disney heroine. I didn't realize how much
the musical had changed from the film, or I would have done my audition
strategy differently. I recalled (correctly) that Belle's father,
Maurice, doesn't have any songs in the movie. On the other hand, I
recalled incorrectly that Cogsworth probably had to dance in the "Be Our
Guest" number. This affects my audition strategy, since acting is my
strongest suit, but I am a poor dancer. As for singing, I can carry a
tune and sing expressively, but my voice just isn't strong enough to be
a lead. So, although I was in the running for Maurice, the part went to
Rick Anderson, whom I've worked with before and who is a swell guy, a
good actor and a better singer than I am. Had I known Cogsworth didn't
have to dance and only has a short solo in the "Human Again" number, I
would have taken a shot at that role. Oh, well.

As it is, I am the Bookseller, which is essentially a chorus role with a
few lines. However, I also get to do the voice-over narration that opens
the show, so that's nice. Director James Lentz, Jr. had the idea to make
the Bookseller a bit of a contrarian with respect to the rest of the
villagers who slavishly follow Gaston, so I am doing some subtle bits in
some of the group numbers to indicate I'm not going along with the
crowd. There's a bit more, but you'll have to come see it--.

I think the show's going to be really good. James (whom I acted with in
"Rehearsal for Murder,"), our choreographer Amie Ferrante, music
director Megan Sweeny and the rest of the production crew have really
done an enormous job of organizing a cast of ninety, including many
children, and getting this show on the road in five and a half weeks.
Although we are performing at the usual West Allis venue, West Allis
Central High School, the group from the Village Playhouse of Wauwatosa
have provided invaluable support, particularly in the area of costuming,
set construction, and their large talent pool. The Playhouse actually as
a short YouTube video at their site about the production:
http://www.villageplayhouse.org/beautybeast.htm (I can be seen in a
couple of the rehearsal shots-eek!).

Our Belle, Liz Shipe, is particularly good in a very demanding role. The
musical has added two important songs for her, "Is This Home?" and "A
Change In Me." She's on stage most of the show, and gets knocked around
a bit, particularly in the second act confrontations with Gaston and his
bully boys. Liz, who is a student in Musical Theatre at UW-Milwaukee,
has a fine voice, is a very good actress, and has the potential to go
far in her profession. She's supported by Nick Zadjel as the Beast, who
is a fine tenor and handles the rather "Phantom of the Opera" inspired
songs he is given very well.

Michael Renner has the role of Gaston, and has an excellent voice for
the part, and has gotten the character's smarmy swagger down pat. Ryan
Cappelman as Lumiere is a very athletic dancer, very good singer, and a
skillful comic actor as well--all of which the part requires. Our Mrs.
Potts, Judy Radtke, has the perfect singing voice for the role and
projects a charming personality for the character, a major plus since
she has to deal with the "teapot" costume, which is very hindering to
movement.

Just because I haven't mentioned someone here by name doesn't mean they
aren't good, there are just too many to mention. I've seldom seen a more
uniform, and unified, effort from any cast, all the more remarkable
since we range in age from literally six to over sixty. In just about
any large cast I've been in there's usually one person who turns out to
be a slacker, or sloppy, or so unmotivated you wonder why they bothered
to try out at all. In this show, I haven't seen that.

The musical preserves the movie plot and augments it with a number of
new songs. Of course it's difficult to translate an animated film to
live theatre, but the script works well, and I think our costumes and
staging 'read' right to give the necessary effect. I'm looking forward
to having friends see it, to find out if they think its as good as I do.

Disney's BEAUTY AND THE BEAST
July 10, 2009 7:30 PM
West Allis Central High School Auditorium
8516 West Lincoln Avenue
West Allis, Wisconsin
July 10, 2009 7:30 PM
July 11, 2009 7:30 PM
July 12, 2009 2:00 PM
July 17 2009 7:30 PM
July 18 2009 7:30 PM
July 19, 2009 2:00 PM

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