Ah yes, a tale as old as time.
Interwoven with dreams, danger, humour and of course, love.
Disney’s Beauty and the Beast has enthralled young and old for decades, bringing to life the woes of a self-centred Prince-turned-into-Beast, a lovely young maiden with a heart of gold, and a whole castle full of delightfully alive teapots and cups, a talking clock and an effected candelabra.
“It’s huge, colourful, magical and amazing in scope,” said director Dawn Ewen, who with a cast of 22 talented actors, brings the magic of the tale to the Kelowna Actors Studio stage this holiday season.
One of the best-loved collections of Disney characters roam through the show, starting with Belle, who lives in a small countryside town but aspires to much greater heights.
Alongside her in the story is the Beast, a young Prince trapped under the spell of an enchantress, who has his entire castle caught in a race against time. If the Beast can learn to love and be loved, the curse will end and he will be transformed into his true self.
But time is running out and if the Beast does not learn his lesson soon, before the last petal on the last rose falls, he and his household will be doomed for all eternity.
Taking on the coveted role of Belle, is Carmen Harris, who was last on the KAS stage as Guinevere in Camelot.
“This show is very engaging, very clever and great for all audiences,” Harris noted.
“The kids of course love it, but there are also lines aimed at adults. I’m thrilled, it’s my first Disney princess role. I grew up with the movie and the music, so to be able to bring it to the stage is special.”
Adding a special touch to the production is the arrival of costumes from one of the many Broadway productions, including the “real Belle gold gown” that arrived complete with a tag listing the actresses who played Belle and wore the sumptuous costume.
Not to be outdone, the Beast costume will draw a lot of attention as well, cleverly transforming Mark Wells into the very large creature who eventually finds friendship and true love in Belle’s arms.
Falling into the role, Wells admits it was never on his radar, but he’s now “in love with the character and the role.”
“The Beast is humorous and vulnerable. He has layers, has to learn to take risks with people. He recognizes his mistakes,” he noted of the character that comes across as ominous and scary, but ultimately very human.
“I’m beefed up to look big and — beastly — with beastly hands and feet, make-up. There’s an imposing amount of hair, and I decided to find my Beast voice,” he added laughing.
In landing the role it wasn’t ‘expected’ that he would create a Beast-like voice, but it happened, as Wells found a voice to “reflect the Beast’s size, anger and emotions.”
Adding that the huge animal-like wig that he sports throughout the show is “actually kinda fancy, with tight curls and lots, and lots, of hair,” he said.
Taking a “normal-sized” actor and transforming him into a large, growling creature of dubious origin, takes time and effort, creating a believable persona who eventually learns “to love, and then finds the next layer down, which is to be loved,” he added.
Director Ewens added that the make-up is scary, but the mask “is brilliant.”
It is subtle enough to allow Wells to “show his facial expressions” allowing the audience to “feel and really get to see his reactions and feelings through the story.”
In creating a “believable” Beast, Ewen also worked with Wells on his physicality: his walk, how to sit down, how to use his bulk, and not be “human-like.”
“Adding the costume, and the size of it, was the final piece in the puzzle, of becoming the Beast,” she said.
The elementary school teacher is looking forward to the special school district matinees which will see some of his own students watching his performance and seeing first-hand his passion for the stage; and seeing the Beast in action.
“This show is clever, inspired and the whimsical side of theatre,” Harris added.
“We really get to flesh out the characters and it’s all very emotional,” she said.
“The transformation scene is an exciting moment. It’s a great show for this time of year, and about home. Home is not a physical place; it’s finding home in the people you are with, and who you love.”
Rounding out the cast are Jason Casey as Gaston, Andrew De Pieri as Maurice, Pete MacLeod as Lumiere, Stephen Keppler as Cogsworth, Emily MacArthur as Mrs. Potts and Caden Hergott as the loveable Chip.