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‘Beauty and the Beast’

By Staff | May 27, 2008

The story line behind ‘Beauty and the Beast’ goes back to 1740 France. Since then it has been on screen, stage and television, but when Walt Disney Studios made an animated cartoon of the strange love story, it became a classic.

The movie remains the only animated cartoon to ever be nominated for the best picture Oscar.

Now the stage version of the Disney movie is coming to Blue Earth. The Town and Country Players are taking on a huge project and bringing the beloved musical to the local stage.

It’s a big undertaking because it is quite a production; numerous characters, outlandish costumes and props, a lot of set changes, and dare we even mention the songs and choreography.

I had the chance to see a high school production of Beauty and the Beast about a year ago. It was terrific, and also looked like it took a huge amount of effort to accomplish. The director told me the hours of rehearsal were incredible. He was surprised they all survived it.

One of the things they did was to rent about eight of the costume/props. That included the rose, the Beast’s costume, the wardrobe and teapot costumes, among others.

The Town and Country Players are going that same route, somewhat. Let me explain.

They were able to purchase the Chanhassen Dinner Theater sets and props, from a school in another part of the state. And when Blue Earth is done with them, they will be sold again, to the next school in the chain.

“Its a wonderful way to get quality sets and props that you don’t have to build or get rid of later,” said Director Nancy Steinke. They simply keep recycling them.

What they did have to do was go and get the things, and find a place to store them. Steinke said that they got help from Richard Dickman and Dave Pirsig who provided their trucks, and themselves as drivers. They also had Lennie Clement driving a school band trailer for the props.

The group got permission from the fair board to store them in a building at the fairgrounds. There are a lot of them, and Steinke said she isn’t yet sure if they will use them all or not. I’d like to, because they are all really impressive,” she said.

Auditions for all the parts were held on May 10 and 11. Steinke is finalizing the cast this week.

That is, except for the main star, the role of “Beauty,” or Belle. Steinke said that they applied for and received a performance grant to bring a professional actress here to play the role. Steinke said the professional isn’t some ringer, but is in fact Blue Earth’s own Makenzie Greimann Caine, the daughter of Rahn and Shelly Greimann.

Makie Caine is currently in New York pursuing an acting career, Steinke said. She has also agreed to teach a master class in stage acting while she is here.

That takes care of Beauty, now how about the Beast? That part is going to be played by Kurt Steinke.

The players are doing the Walt Disney movie version of the classic Beauty and the Beast story. It differs in some ways from the old fairy tale stories. But then, they didn’t all jive with each other either.

Some of the main differences involve the role of Belle’s father, who in this show is an inventor, not a merchant.

The many “cute” characters of the wardrobe, tea pot, candlestick and clock are all Disney creations too. They are under the same spell that turns the prince into a beast.

Steinke says that Disney’s Beauty and the Beast has it all. “A wonderful tuneful score, including a huge hit title song, off-the-wall choreography, a great opposites-attract love story, and a happy ending,” she told me.

Plus it has comic sub-plots, colorful costumes, a romantic location in small town France, and an irresistible cast of characters.

It has my four-year-old granddaughter’s stamp of approval. She owns the Disney DVD and has seen it close to a zillion times. She sings along with every song. Had to keep her from doing that out loud when we took her to the high school performance last year.

She will be in Blue Earth in July when it is performed during Giant Days so if you hear an echo of the song from the audience, you will know why. The Town and Country Players production is set for July 10-13 at the BEAHS Performing Arts Center.

There is an evening performance at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday and Friday, and new this year are Saturday and Sunday matinees at 1:30 p.m.

Consider this column your heads-up preview.