Beauty and the Beast is the tale of a stuck-up young prince and his castle servants who fall under the spell of a wicked enchantress.
With a wave of her magic wand, she turns the prince into a hideous beast and his staff into inanimate objects, including a clock, a cup, a teapot, a candelabra and a wardrobe.
Like these storied characters, the members of the Fandango Musical Players are becoming enchanted by the Disney musical as they mount their own production of Beauty and the Beast. The musical plays on selected dates from Nov. 30 to Dec. 8 at the Harbourfront Theatre in Summerside.
“It’s definitely put me under a spell. It’s one of my favourite Disney movies and it’s such an honour to get to play a princess,” says Melissa MacKenzie, who performs as Belle, the headstrong girl who enters the Beast’s castle after he imprisons her father, Maurice, and, with the help of his enchanted servants, brings the Beast out of his self-centredness.
“I can’t put into words how much it means to me to be part of the show. It’s really a dream come true,” says the young actress, who also played one of the nuns and a ballroom dancer in The Sound of Music last December at Confederation Centre of the Arts.
It’s also magical for Adam-Michael James, who has performed in several production on P.E.I. including The Nine Lives of L.M. Montgomery.
“Playing this character, standing in this costume, (it) takes me out of my own world — no matter what’s going on — and it inserts me into this world of magic,” says James, who plays Lumière, the Beast’s kindhearted but over-the-top maître d’ who is transformed into a candelabra by the enchantress.
“That’s the thing with Beauty and the Beast, everybody wants to see magic .... And, as you can see, we’ve got it going on,” says the actor, demonstrating his costume’s ability to shoot flames from his coat sleeves.
Director Shirley Anne Cameron became aware of the musical’s enchanting qualities when she read the text.
“What’s critical in this show is the theme that love conquers all and beauty is from the heart. With that as a solid foundation, we’ve brought in lots of colour and energy as well as some great people,” says Cameron during a recent break in rehearsals for the production that features 50 P.E.I. performers, including Justin Brown as the Beast, Steve Bruce as Gaston, Sandra McNeill as the bubbly Mrs. Potts, Peter Surkan as the tightly-wound Cogsworth and Kenny Arsenault as Belle’s lovably eccentric father, Maurice.
Sometimes the magic is simply the experience of doing something for the first time.
“I’ve never done a full-blown musical before. Now I’m asking when the next musical is,” says Bruce who is enjoying his role as Belle’s handsome suitor Gaston.
“I’ve always thought Gaston was such a fun, comedic character.”
Other times, the magic comes from doing all the things that need to be done before opening night.
“The more involved you get in it, the more wrapped in it you become,” says producer Margo Thompson, who has spent hours arranging publicity and building the sets.
“In the process (of doing this work), you begin to love all the characters and the fun. I love being able to portray the fantasy in the show,” she says.
And there is a plenty of it to see.
“There will be magical moments and funny moments and very heart-wrenching moments, and it all adds up to what is a fantastic show,” says Cameron.
But what is even more magical to her is how the community came together to support it.
“It’s a real community effort. Beauty and the Beast is sponsored by different businesses and people around the Summerside area. It enriches the culture in Summerside and enriches the community, and that’s really important to me,” she says.
AT A GLANCE
If you are going
What: Beauty and the Beast.
When: Selected dates, Nov. 30 to Dec. 8, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Harbourfront Theatre in Summerside
Produced by: Fandango Musical Players, a non-profit community musical theatre production company. Starting as a choral ensemble, it mounted a sold-out production of A Christmas Carol in 2010 and now takes on the spectacle of Beauty and the Beast.
Tickets: Available from the box office by calling 888-2500 or going to www.harbourfronttheatre.com.