JRT opens season with Beauty and the Beast

Brittany Whitson will play the lead role of Belle in the production. Photos by Heather Allen

Brittany Whitson will play the lead role of Belle in the production. Photos by Heather Allen

A girl. A beast. And the story that brings them together. The Jonesborough Repertory Theatre is thrilled to kick off their new season with the beloved, classic tale of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.

The story is about Belle, an outcast of her village who is taken captive by a Beast, who’s actually a prince put under a curse for being mean-spirited and judgmental. If he can find true love and be loved in return before the last petal falls from the enchanted rose, then the curse will be broken. Belle is now his only hope.

“I absolutely love the sentiment behind the words of this show,” said co-director Pam Johnson. “The songs, the script, everything points toward what really should matter: having a good heart, being a kind person, and loving one another.”

Not only is there the powerful storyline of love, but also of acceptance—something so many cultures and generations seem to struggle with.

“Belle has always been my favorite Disney princess,” said Brittany Whitson, who plays Belle. “She’s intelligent, kind, and witty. However, she is considered ‘different’ or ‘odd’ among her peers.

“I was bullied pretty severely in school,” Brittany continued, “and even became a spokesperson against bullying when I was in college, so I feel like I definitely relate to Belle in that we both felt isolated and like there was something wrong with us.”

During a tender scene in the show, Belle acknowledges her sense of being an outcast to the Beast, and those mutual feelings are what help form a sentimental bond. Brittany said this is “hands down, her favorite moment of the show.”

The play will run from Sept. 8 through Oct. 1

The play will run from Sept. 8 through Oct. 1

Though the messages may be deep, the presentation is entertaining, delightful and suitable for all ages. Well-known characters—including Lumiere, Cogsworth, Mrs. Potts and Chip—sing and dance with popular songs from the animated version like “Be Our Guest” and “Beauty and the Beast.” The stage version also includes powerful newer songs like “Home” sung by Belle, and “If I Can’t Love Her” by the Beast.

There are many familiar and wonderful things in this show. Eight-year-old Lucas Boyle who plays Chip said, “My favorite scene is the one where the Beast shows Belle the library. I love libraries, and I love the artwork that makes this scene.”

Kari Tuthill (Mrs. Potts) said her favorite is ‘Be Our Guest!’ “The singing and dancing and costumes make this scene an incredible experience!”

“The whole cast is excited to present this show to the community,” said Pam. “They have worked hard to make it a wondrous and exceptional event for everyone who attends. And I send a special shout out to Derek Smithpeters, our costume designer. Wait till you see what he and his team bring to our stage!”

Rounding out the cast are Joe Gumina as the Beast, Lucas Schmidt as Gaston, Mike Musick as Maurice, Jacob Mauer as LeFou, Ryan Gray as Monsier D’Arque, Derek Smithpeters as Cogsworth, Corey Tickles as Lumiere, Jessica Shelton as Babette, A.J. Rose as Madame de le Grande Bouche, Shawn Hale as the Bookseller, Avery Morgan as Chip’s understudy, and Jessica Scarbrough, Catherine Squibb and Tara White as the Silly Girls. Also included are Abigail Anderson, Lauren Anderson, Matthew Anderson, Taylor Boyle, Megan Collier, Stephen Cradic, Trinity Dixon, Andrew Duncan, Grace Duncan, Janette Gaines, Magda Gaines, Molly Gaines, Ben Garber, Dawn Gentry, Madelyn Goward, Hope Hiester, Ashley Light, Jaclyn DiDonato, Alayasha Martin, Tiffany Matthews, Emily Merritt, Brigitte Reyes, Cody Shivers, Alex Vanburen, and Lucas Wilcox.

Disney’s Beauty and the Beast is by Linda Woolverton, with music by Alan Menken and lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice. JRT’s production is directed by Janette Gaines and Pam Johnson, music direction is by Shelly Mangiacotti, and choreography by Lindy Ley. This show is sponsored by Monkee’s; Murphy, Inc; Acorn Electrical Specialists, Inc; and Sonia King and Mary B. Martin.

Don’t miss any of JRT’s fantastic line-up for this season. Next is The New Mel Brooks Musical: Young Frankenstein, followed by the 1940s USO Christmas Show, Meet Me In St. Louis, The Foreigner, I Love a Piano, Welcome to Mitford, and 1776 the Musical.

Disney’s Beauty and the Beast runs Sept. 8 through Oct. 1, on Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m, and Saturdays and Sundays at 2:00 p.m. Tickets are $16 general admission, $14 for students and seniors. To purchase tickets, call the Historic Jonesborough Visitors Center at (423) 753-1010 or go online to jonesboroughtheatre.com.


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