It’s a tale as old as time: Beauty and the Beast.
ABC Players will perform the musical version of Beauty and the Beast, sponsored by Stuart’s Opera House. The performance will span two weekends, with the first taking place at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
Chris Parsons, the director of the show, is excited to present his third show with the ABC Players in what is shaping up to be the most elaborate production the company has ever performed.
If You Go:
What: Beauty and the Beast
When: 7:30 p.m., March 1-2 and 8-9; 2 p.m., March 3, 9 and 10
Where: Stuart’s Opera House, 52 Public Square, Nelsonville
Admission: $12 for adults and $8 for students
“It’s a Disney show that everyone is familiar with,” Parsons said. “It’s difficult to produce in the sense of not disappointing anyone but also not copying what has been done before. So a lot of recognizable elements are there, but it’s different enough that people will be really interested.”
The Disney animated movie was released in 1991, followed by the musical debut in 1993. The movie and musical adaptations were both composed by Alan Menken, but Menken added a significant number of songs to the musical to further the story.
After previously directing ABC Players’ productions of The Addams Family and Godspell, Parsons wanted to do something big and fun, and started exploring along the lines of Disney. Once Beauty and the Beast was suggested, he latched onto the idea and immediately started planning.
“Beauty and the Beast just kind of popped into our heads, and we really didn’t think twice about it after that,” Parsons said.
Though Beauty and the Beast will be only his third show with the ABC Players, Parsons is no stranger to the theater. In addition to his work with the ABC Players, Parsons is the head of the drama department at Athens High School and is the managing director for the Ohio Valley Summer Theater.
He got involved with the ABC Players about four years ago, when he and his wife, Alexis, moved to Athens and she was cast in their production of The Little Mermaid. Alexis is one of the two choreographers of Beauty and the Beast, and Chris said Alexis has had a big hand in directing the show as well.
“She’s been doing theater longer than I have,” Chris said. “She really stepped up to help me direct this beast. Pardon the pun.”
In addition to their backstage roles as directors, Chris and Alexis are both featured onstage in the production. Chris will play the infamous villain Gaston, and Alexis will dance in the ensemble.
Chris and Alexis both agree that the best part about the show is the elaborate dance numbers. Chris is excited for the audience to see “Be Our Guest,” which is the big show-stopping number that he thinks will be the crowd favorite. For Alexis, her work on “Gaston” has been the best part, and the part she’s most excited for the audience to see.
“It was a challenge for me, in terms of choreography,” Alexis said. “So it felt really good to accomplish making it up, and it’s just so much fun to dance onstage. I get to dance beside my husband, who is Gaston, and it’s fun to share the stage together and feel the energy of such a fun number.”
Chris pitched the show back in the summer, auditioned the cast right after Thanksgiving, and the rehearsal process began a few weeks before winter break. Chris knows that the tone of the rehearsal process is important, and he likes to create a comfortable and safe environment for the cast and crew.
“The rehearsal process has been great,” Chris said. “My favorite experiences have always been on the shows that felt the most comfortable. The more comfortable I was, the more likely I was to make bold decisions, so I try to cultivate that environment for my cast. We save all of the drama for the stage.”
The ABC Players have been partnering with Stuart’s Opera House for many years to perform shows. The company performs about three to five shows there every year, and Chris thinks the partnership is amazing and a blessing, especially for a production as large as Beauty and the Beast.
Brian Koscho, marketing director for the opera house, appreciates the diversity from the regular program at Stuart’s Opera House to bring in the community theater shows.
“Working with ABC Players is great because we’re able to, as an organization, offer community theater and other performances in addition to our regular programming,” Koscho said. “It really diversifies what we do here, and it’s a great opportunity for us to please the parts of our audiences who love theater.”
In addition to the excitement of the show and the appeal of Disney, Chris believes the show has a very timely message to offer the audience.
“There’s a reason this story has been told for so long, and it’s because the message of equality and acceptance will always be relevant,” Chris said. “Here’s Gaston, who’s trying to boss around this woman, and Belle really stands up for herself with him, and it’s empowering.”
Between the message, the hard work of the cast and the exciting dance numbers, Chris and Alexis both think the show will be a must-see.
“It’s going to be one of the best times that you’ll have all year,” Alexis said. “It’s the songs that everyone knows, it’s the story that everyone knows and it’s just two and a half hours to forget about your worries and live in a world of fantasy and fun.”