Story & photos by Barbara B. Covell
For the TODAY
It’s the stuff that Disney dreams are made of and storytelling at its best. A blend of fantasy, romance, mythology and the majestic magnitude of true love, “Beauty and the Beast” is a timeless tale about seeing past the exterior of a person and into their heart.
Originally created as an animated musical film in 1991, the tale was adapted into a musical stage play that became Broadway’s 10th-longest-running production, receiving nine Tony Award nominations. Last year, Disney released a live-action version of the film to epic reviews.
Now Coastal Act Productions brings “Beauty and the Beast” to the Newport Performing Arts Center’s Alice Silverman Theatre. Coastal Act Productions is Lincoln County’s only community theater organization dedicated to arts awareness through youth theater. The group also encourages adults to participate in the stage experience, often in lead roles that require age-appropriate actors.
“We are a youth theater company that focuses on the family,” said creative director Jody Hanna. “We encourage adults to be in our shows with their children. It is an incredible opportunity to create something with your kids and have this shared experience.”
Mentorship and volunteerism are a driving focus for this unique theater organization. Formed in 2004, Coastal Act Productions offers a powerful all-volunteer cast, crew, orchestra and production staff dedicating their time and talents. “Beauty and the Beast” features 68 cast and 18 orchestra members, all with varied levels of experience and education.
“We have people who studied theater in college, as well as those who’ve never been onstage before,” Hanna said. “Our orchestra consists of professional, amateur and youth musicians, under the direction of conductor Rachel Steward, Newport High School’s band teacher. Some of our musicians have been with CAP for every show since 2009.”
“Beauty and the Beast” is based on a classic French fairy tale about a cold-blooded prince, magically transformed into an unsightly creature as punishment for his selfish ways. To revert back into his true human form, the Beast must earn the love of a bright, beautiful woman he has imprisoned in his enchanted castle. He must also learn to love her for more than her beauty. Before it is too late; before the narcissistic town hero makes her his bride.
“This is really a story about change,” Hanna said. “We have the power to learn and change and grow. We have the ability to change ourselves and our opinions of others; views and feelings that alter through life experiences. We can’t always change our situation in life, but we can change how we see things and how we react to them. “
The three lead characters, Belle, the Beast and Gaston, each create a unique emotional connection with audiences.
Lindsey Marchant portrays the beautiful, insightful Belle, whom she sees as courageous and strong.
“She is willing to give up everything for her father and exudes compassion,” Marchant said, adding: “We have worked hard to create characters with strong personalities.”
Cameron Garner is the Beast, a complex character of emotion with strong childlike attitudes.
“His worst enemy is himself,” Garner said. “This play emphasizes, through transformation of his character, the importance of having good people and good influences in our lives in order to be the best that we can be.”
Jason Wilson plays Gaston, the antagonist, arrogant and rude towards others.
“He is fun to portray,” Wilson said. “He is the polar opposite of the Beast who appears savage, but in the end it is Gaston who is the beast.”
“Beauty and the Beast” is set in 17th-Century France and the set and costumes have been designed to reflect this time period, with conceptual design by Jody Hanna. A magnificent town set, designed and built by Brian Hanna, comes to life with masterful painting by Gary Herd. Costume mistress is Judy Wilson. Choreographer and stage manager is Jori Bowen, tap choreography is Kendra Hanna. Musical direction is by Leah Carpenter, which Hanna says, “propels the story forward.” The show’s magnificent music enhances the storyline, with six compelling new songs written for stage by lyricist Tim Rice and composer Alan Menken.
“Beauty and the Beast” runs through Saturday, Jan. 27, with 7 pm performances each Friday and Saturday and 2 pm matinées on Saturdays. Tickets, $15 apiece, or $13 for students and seniors, are available by calling 541-265-ARTS online at coastarts.org.