ACT! for Youth casts spell in ‘Beast’

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ACT! for Youth is bringing the beloved Disney classic “Beauty and the Beast” to the Boykin Center stage this month and invites young and old alike to be their guest starting Feb. 1.

“The most rewarding thing for the kids who’ve put in so much work for this show is to perform for a full house for each show,” said the show’s director and choreographer, Patricia K. Bradshaw.

“Beast” has been performed in 13 countries and more than 35 million people worldwide. Based on the Academy Award-winning animated feature, the stage version includes all of the songs written by Alan Menken and the late Howard Ashman, along with new songs by Menken and Tim Rice.

This is second time ACT! for Youth has performed “Beast.” When the group first performed it in 2007, Caleb Skinner was in the cast. This time, he serves as music director in what he describes as a “full circle moment.”

Bradshaw, who is directing the show for the first time and choreographing it for the third, said she never tires of bringing the classic tale of Belle, a young woman in a provincial town, played by Hannah McLaughlin, and the Beast, who is really a young prince trapped under the spell of an enchantress to life, played by Seth Greene.

“It’s very exciting for me to see everything come together and to have a chance to bring some of the things I have envisioned for the show to fruition. It’s great to see the enthusiasm of the kids, the parents and the community.”

Audiences will remember big ensemble numbers, such as Gaston’s tavern boast, and the classic “Be Our Guest” that features the enchanted objects occupying the Beast’s castle. Bradshaw said audiences will also see many of the props and special effects that make the show memorable.

“We’ve been really blessed to still have some props from the prior show that we’ve been able to use and improve upon. We’re also very thankful to the Imperial Centre in Rocky Mount for letting us use some of their props as well,” she said.

“And our tech director Sean Braswell and costumer Karyna Parrish have really outdone themselves.”

Alongside McLaughlin and Greene, the cast includes Jordan Warren as Gaston, Jah’mez Moore as Maurice, Hunter Pierce as Lumiere, Jake Yankowsky as Cogsworth, Emma Beneck as Mrs. Potts and Timothy Steward III, who is making his ACT! for Youth debut as Chip.

Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast: The Musical” runs at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 1, 2, 8 and 9, and at 3 p.m. Feb. 3 and 10. The first Sunday performance, Feb. 3, is billed as an alumni performance. Bradshaw invites anyone who participated in the 2007 production to come out for the performance.

General admission tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for students and seniors. They may be purchased by visiting the box office at the Edna Boykin Cultural Center during normal business hours (Tuesday-Friday 10-5 and Saturday 10-3), visiting the Arts Council website at www.wilsonarts.com to purchase on-line via the eTix link, or by calling the Arts Council at 252-291-4329.