KLT: Beauty and the Beast

By Beth James

When you think of Disney, do you picture amusement parks, resorts, Mickey Mouse, or fabulous music and dance filled theatrical stage productions? Kernersville Little Theatre is hoping you will think of the latter, and more specifically, Beauty and the Beast. KLT will be presenting this world-famous, award-winning show as their spring musical in June. It ran on Broadway for over thirteen years, but local audiences will only have six or seven opportunities to see it here. The show appeals to – and is appropriate for – all ages.

The director for this production, Kristen Skidmore, grew up in the area in Jamestown. She left for Orlando, Florida for about ten years; would it be a surprise to find out she worked for the Disney organization there? She considers the opportunity to direct this show an honor and is hoping for a “magical experience” by all who participate and experience it. Chris Kiser is the music director and, while new to KLT, has worked on a multitude of local theatrical productions, as well as with several churches. He will lead a live orchestra of musicians for the performances. Rachel Conway, the choreographer, also choreographed several other recent KLT shows, and is being assisted by Katie Muckenfuss and Monica Kepins.

Cast in Beauty and the Beast are several singer/actor/dancers, well-known to Triad theatre fans. Twenty-two folks, from aged nine years and up, will take the stage for the show. The role of Belle will be played by Ireland Barile, last seen on the KLT stage in Into the Woods, and more recently at Camel City Playhouse in Dog Sees God. Ryan Hendricks will be playing the role of the Beast. He played several roles in KLT’s first show of the current season, Ripcord. Among the other KLT veterans are a few newcomers to the Fitzpatrick stage, and all come with a wealth of excitement and expertise in their area (singing, dancing, and/or acting). Kristen and Chris were blown away by the level of talent who auditioned for this show, and probably could have cast two full different casts because of it.

A show of this magnitude takes a small army of production crew members to bring to life. Leading the charge will be three production managers, Myla O’Brien, Brian Albrecht, and Beth James. Stage Manager, Kathy Cissna, will be assisted by Beth Strader and Quinn Smythe. The set was designed by This Robot Dreams/Tab May, and construction of it will be led by Pat Fiorentino and Jeff Prague. Joanne Jay will be lead costumer, ably assisted by Amanda Coltrane, among others. Kylie James will oversee hair and make-up. The lighting was designed by Leah Shipko, who will run the board with assistance by Dylan Thomas.

Certainly, most know the story of Beauty and the Beast. Its original printed version is credited to French writer Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve, which was one of the stories in a 1740 collection called The Young American and Marine Tales. It is said that she heard the story from a chambermaid who told it to someone who was on a ship heading to America. But prior to that, as far back as 1550, similar fairy tales were told in Italy and Greece. An opera of the story was even told in 1771 which was very popular in the nineteenth century. So when Disney called Beauty and the Beast a “tale as old as time” they were not exaggerating! The story revolves around a prince who was cursed by an enchantress because of his arrogance. He has to find a way to stop the progression of the curse before his castle servants are cursed to non-human life, and he is unable to become human again. Various household objects and nearby village denizens round out the ensemble. The Beast and the beautiful Belle go through a series of challenges before the story comes to its end.

Kernersville Little Theatre has been known for their family-oriented productions since the late 1970s. Past shows have included other Disney shows, such as The Little Mermaid and Tarzan, which were performed to sell-out crowds. All performances for Beauty and the Beast will be held in the James Fitzpatrick Auditorium at Kernersville Elementary School (512 W. Mountain Street), a handicapped accessible facility.

Disney’s Beauty and the Beast opens on Friday, June 14, 2024, and runs that weekend and the next. (June 15, 16, 21, 22, 23). Friday and Saturday shows begin at 7:30 PM, Sunday matinees are at 2:00 PM. Tickets can be ordered on thundertix.com for a $2 discount, reserved by calling the KLT office at 336-993-6556 and leaving a message, or purchased at the door (cash, cards, checks). Door prices are $20 for Adults, $18 for Students and Seniors (60+), and $8 for Children under 12. This is definitely a show that is appropriate for all ages. For more information, see the KLT website, KLTheatre.org, or call the office and leave a message for a return call.

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