There’s a lot going on in the Clark Intermediate School drama room.
Most of the 29 cast members who make up CenterStage Clovis Community Theatre’s production of “Disney’s Beauty and the Beast” have already checked in for Tuesday’s evening rehearsal — with a few actors practicing choreography, some with their noses stuck in the script and others catching up with their fellow cast mates before doing a complete run-through of the musical.
It’s all about repetition at this point for the nonprofit organization, as after five weeks of rehearsal, CenterStage Clovis Community Theatre will bring the classic tale to the Mercedes Edwards Theatre’s stage July 14-23 in celebration of its 25th year.
Since 1991, the community-based group has made it its mission to bring fine, live theater to the Central Valley, helping to create a space for performers of all ages, families and friends to produce quality, G-rated productions that are suitable for all ages to enjoy.
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“Disney’s Beauty and the Beast” fits these qualifications — and then some.
“It’s so iconic. It’s Disney. And it was one of our most popular shows the last time we staged it back in 2009,” said Scott Hancock, the show’s director and member of the nonprofit’s board of directors. “It got done a lot when the rights first became available, but it’s been a while now so we thought we’d bring it back.”
One thing he was sure of: the musical’s material was fantastic. Something he wasn’t so sure of: the May audition’s potential turnout.
“Disney’s Beauty and the Beast” had saturated the local theater community early on, but Hancock was pleasantly surprised by what he described as finding a “rock star cast” in the hundred-plus performers who tried out for both this show and “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown,” which runs later in the month.
For 37-year-old Lorraine Christiansen, auditioning for the musical was a no-brainer. The local actress has performed with CenterStage Clovis Community Theatre in five productions, and has played the leading role of Belle four times in her career — her affinity for “Disney’s Beauty and the Beast” is clear in Christiansen’s continued passion for the piece and what it stands for.
“It’s just a show where I always find new things, and has a timeless message,” she said. “I think it’s great for children and adults, and has a beautiful story with beautiful music.”
Terry Lewis, 45, also has love for the Disney musical and jumped at the opportunity to audition for the production that had long escaped him. This was finally his chance.
He encouraged his theater friend, Eric Estep, to tryout as the possible Cogsworth to his Lumiere, and as luck would have it, the duo’s undeniable chemistry will be on full display as they take on the responsibility of acting as the show’s famed comedic relief.
Hilarious banter is one qualification — but dealing with “Disney’s Beauty and the Beast’s” oversized-costumes is an entirely unique requirement for this show.
“One of the biggest challenges is going to be the costuming,” Estep, 46, said. “I’m going to be a large clock of some kind.”
“And I know I have big candle hands, but I don’t how they’re going to work yet,” Lewis added, before pointing to 23-year-old Isaac Ellis, who plays the character of Beast. “He’s going to be covered in hair, and she’s [Christiansen] got it pretty easy besides the big ball gown.”
In fact, the size of the production is a challenge for both the cast and crew to overcome, explained Hancock. The set is gigantic, the costumes are massive, and the behind-the-scenes magic is just as imperative as it is on stage.
At least 40 volunteers flex their technical talents in areas like set construction, set design, lighting design, sound, costuming, concessions and more, and help develop the show’s expansive set of special effects that make key interludes like the enchanted rose and beast’s physical transformation even more fairytale-like.
“We tried to put a fresh spin on the show, while staying true to the Disney version and maintaining the integrity of the show,” Hancock said, noting that while there were no script changes, Erin Roberts created all-new, inventive choreography for the CenterStage Clovis Community Theatre production and the musical version brought new songs for its live orchestra and cast to perform.
“Disney’s Beauty and the Beast” also allows for the story to be told at a deeper level — something that’s especially exciting for the show’s Beast.
“Having not actually seen the musical version of the show, I like the subtle differences with the musical,” Ellis said. “You don’t get to see how they are slowly turning into these objects in the movie, but they’re actually changing into these objects on stage so you see the drive ... the desperation.”
But it’s sharing the timeless tale and well-known score that’s made “Disney’s Beauty and the Beast” such an enduring musical all these years that Hancock is most looking forward to, whether it be with older audience members who are being reintroduced to the show or younger generations who are seeing it for the first time.
“The world is so troubled, so giving people an afternoon or evening to have a break,” the director said. “Come, sit back, relax, have a good time and leave the worries outside.”
What: CenterStage Clovis Community Theatre presents “Disney’s Beauty and the Beast”
When: 7:30 p.m. July 14-23, with matinee performances July 16 and 23
Where: Mercedes Edwards Theatre, 902 5th St in Clovis
How much: Tickets cost $20 for adults, $18 for students and seniors and $15 for Group Tickets (parties of 20 or more)
Details: www.centerstageclovis.com, (559) 323-8744