Dancing dishes, a hairy beast and a literary loving heroine present Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” for two weekends at the Hardin County Schools Performing Arts Center.
The story is well known and professional and amateur actors from the area and region have taken on the challenge to tell this “tale as old as time.”
“When The PAC announced ‘Beauty and The Beast’ as part of their season, I was very excited to audition in hopes of being part of the production,” Heather Heim-Lawson said. “It had been a while since the last musical due to COVID, so it was exciting to see the opportunity for a musical to come back to our community.”
Lawson always has been a fan of the animated version and wanted to bring it to life on stage. She will play the role of Mrs. Potts, the matronly teapot.
For some of the inanimate objects that will come to life, actors will be using puppets. The challenges, she said, are small things you don’t think about initially.
“You know the mouth needs to move when yours does, but smaller nuances such as the puppets line of sight matching yours at all times can be challenging,” she said. “Also, with a puppet like Mrs. Potts that has no arms or legs, because she’s a tea pot, you have to really get creative with her movement to widen her range of expression.”
At first Lawson thought about what people have been used to, such Angela Lansbury, who voiced the character in the cartoon movie or Beth Fowler in the original Broadway cast, and she didn’t want to imitate those performers but knew they also were synonymous with the character.
“I’ve tried to balance my interpretation while remaining true to the expectation of such a beloved character,” she said. “I think, though, the biggest part of who Mrs. Potts is her heart — her love for the Beast, her son Chip, the other enchanted castle folks and ultimately Belle.”
Her goal is to let that love shine through her performance.
“We all really have such fun working to create magic on stage in hopes of transporting the audience, for a little while, and sharing the important message of the transformative power of love,” she said.
Mrs. Potts son Chip is played by 13-year-old Ethan Grose. He said Chip is one of his dream roles in theater. He’s excited for the opportunity to do puppet work in his role.
Sometimes, he said, playing a teacup can be a challenge.
“It has been a struggle but with practice it has been easy to overcome,” he said.
Grose said the show is big with energetic musical numbers. It also has a talented cast that’s been a fun to be a part of, he said.
Brian Witcher plays Bell’s father Maurice and had the advantage of not playing an otherwise inanimate object like some of the others. He said it’s the second time he’s been in “Beauty and the Beast.” The first time he played Lumiere.
“I was part of several shows before I left in 2014 and was excited to come back to the area and get involved again,” he said. “This is probably the most professional community theater I’ve ever been involved in and it’s a great experience.”
Witcher said the community benefits from shows such as “Beauty and the Beast” and can take pride in the talent on stage.
“Most of the audience is familiar with the cartoon version, but we can’t do everything that a cartoon can do,” he said. “So we have to do our best to keep the characters familiar while at the same time bringing some different perspectives and characteristics to the characters. “
It’s a new take on an old story, Witcher said. There’s a unique vison from the director, he said.
Some actors, such as 14-year-old Harper Taylor, are responsible for some comic relief in the show.
In her role as LeFou, bits that were added came naturally as she developed the character.
“My favorite part about playing a comic relief character is just how much fun you can have with it,” she said. “Having the freedom to add comedic bits and new adlibs really makes the working process all the more enjoyable.”
She also likes how the audience reacts to comic characters.
“Hearing a laugh from a crowd really gives you a burst of energy,” she said. “This show has been a blast to work not only because of the journey I’ve seen it take to transform into a truly magnificent piece of work, but also the people I’ve found throughout this process.”
She’s been in a variety of productions in the area but looks forward to work with new and experienced actors.
“The show itself has always been something I’ve wanted to do,” she said.
She said there’s a fine line in bringing an “iconic show” to the audience and putting “your own spin on it.”
“What helped me most in defining this line was taking plenty of inspiration from the film itself and other productions,” she said. “That helped me develop a very cartoonish perspective on the character.”
Performances are 2 and 7 p.m. Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday, 2 and 7 p.m. Sept. 24 and 3 p.m. Sept. 25.
Tickets range from $16 to $33.50.
For more information, call 270-769-8837 or go to thepac.net.