New approach to the tale as old as time
The summer production of “Beauty and the Beast” offers a large cast and technical feats. (Draper Arts Council)
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The Draper Arts Council is bringing the “tale as old as time” to the stage with its summer production of “Beauty and the Beast.” Riding on the popularity of the new live-action movie, the play brings different interpretations to the classic fairy tale.
The idea to do “Beauty and the Beast” for the summer show started a year ago when the council was in the middle of producing “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.”
“It’s a beloved tale. It’s fun. It’s bright. It’s happy,” said Susan Demill, the director and choreographer of the show. “We embarked on it a year ago because it’s so huge. We’ve literally worked year-round to get all the bells and whistles that we’ll have in this show.”
Because the show is so popular and is done a lot all over the valley, Demill wanted to create a totally different feeling with her production. She began thinking of new ideas and new ways of putting on the show by listening to the music. She then gleaned inspiration for new parts, such as actually showing the chandeliers the character Lumiere sings about in “Be Our Guest.” The song “Gaston” was changed to a big dance number where 50 actors on stage are tap dancing.
The iconic rose, a central motif to the story, is also different from other productions.
“I have an LED rose that will hang from the top of the proscenium and it’s enormous,” Demill said. “Instead of a little tiny rose that the audience can’t see, there will be a huge rose at the top of the proscenium and as the petals fall, the lights go out. It was a beautiful visual.”
The opening prologue is also different from most productions. Instead of a narrator telling the story of how the prince and his castle were cursed because of his selfishness, Demill took a different approach.
“Everyone’s used to the story so I decided to do it all with movement. I have six dancers who are telling the story with movement and it’s kind of a unique take on that,” Demill said. “I think visually, it’s a very beautiful way to start the show and it really sets the tone that this is a really different ‘Beauty and the Beast’ than what you’ve see before.”
According to Demill, the hardest part of putting the production together was the costumes, since actors have to look like objects while also looking human.
“It’s a clock that is definitely still a person but it has to look like a clock,” Demill said. “And the beast has to be scary yet sing a beautiful love song and you have to fall in love with him, even though he’s got prosthetics on that make him really quite hideous looking.”
The lead rolls of Belle and the Beast are played by married couple Annie and Trent English of Riverton. Annie said she has been dreaming of playing Belle ever since she was a little girl.
“What I love about Belle is that she’s smart yet very kind. I find her very independent,” Annie said. “I’ve always grown up with a more independent personality. I’m just drawn to that. I love how genuine she is.”
To prepare for her role, Annie began taking voice lessons again and watched the movie over and over.
“The music is very challenging. Belle has a lot of songs that are difficult,” Annie said. “So making sure that I’m hitting the notes right and I’m able to tell the story at the same time.”
Trent, who auditioned for either the role of the Beast or Gaston, described the Beast as being really insecure at the beginning of the play.
“His backstory is he was raised as a prince. He’s kind of this snobbish brat. Then he gets cursed and becomes introverted, insecure, doesn’t really know how to act around people,” Trent said. “Then throughout the show as he learns to love and love Belle, he becomes a more likeable character and becomes more relatable and you end up liking him a bit more.”
Trent said being in the same show as his wife has been a lot of fun.
“We get to practice together at home and we get to go through all the scenes together to make sure everything is nice and tight,” Trent said.
The most difficult part of playing the Beast for Trent has been singing in the Beast’s voice.
“I’m normally a tenor and Beast is really more of a booming baritone, so I’ve done a lot of training with the music director on the side to try and make my voice more of that full vibrato sound,” Trent said.
The role of the villain Gaston is played by Seth Tippetts. Standing six-foot-seven-inches with black hair, Tippets said he’s been told his entire life he should play the role of Gaston.
“I have a bit of a look,” he said.
Tippets described Gaston as being pure confidence.
“If you could put confidence in a bottle and pour into a big red shirt, it’d be Gaston. He’s also kind of a jerk,” Tippets said. “I think people like to hate characters like him so being over the top and smiley and ‘Hey, everyone. You like me because I like me.’”
To learn more about the Draper Arts Council, visit http://www.draperartscouncil.org.