It’s one of the most classic love stories of all time.
The girl who sacrifices herself to be a prisoner in a horrific beast’s castle in place of her father. It seems almost like a fate worse than death. The beast is a terror, rampaging through his enchanted castle, destroying many of his precious belongings and being a complete despot to his servants, who have also been transformed into household items.
But then, the young woman and the beast begin to bond. It takes some time, and she only befriends him when he starts to act more selflessly. But she realizes there may be something there that wasn’t there before.
We all know the words to the songs. We’ve marveled at the gorgeous animation. We fell in love with the characters of Disney’s beloved animated film “Beauty and the Beast.”
So Ceara Madson knew that she would be in for a challenge when she decided to direct the Cheyenne Little Theatre Players’ 90th season opener.
But she was ready.
“This is such an iconic story,” she said.
“But I also think this has a great message about looking at someone and not making a snap judgement about them. It’s such a true message, but it tells this story in such a fun way. It’s very family friendly, and we got to do this major spectacle with all of that.”
It doesn’t hurt that Madson is a major fan of fairytales. She loves this story (who doesn’t, though?), so she wanted to be able to put her own spin on things.
The classic musical adapted from the 1991 Disney film of the same name will open Friday night at the Mary Godfrey Playhouse and will run until Oct. 6. You should definitely plan on being the theater troupe’s guest for this one.
Don’t worry, you’ll see all the characters you know and love, from Belle and the Beast to Gaston to the household objects like Lumiere the candelabra and Cogsworth the clock.
The Broadway adaptation CLTP is performing debuted in 1994 and was nominated for a number of Tony Awards, including best musical. It won for best costume design. It is also one of the longest-running Broadway shows in history.
The musical is mostly faithful to the film, with a couple of songs added to expand the running time.
For Katherine Riedl and Josh Cooper, who play the titular characters, their love of this story also drew them to audition.
This is Riedl’s third year in a row where she’s been the leading lady in CLTP’s season opener, but she joked that she only has a short amount of time where she can play an ingenue before she gets relegated to smaller roles.
Two years ago, she tackled the role of Eliza Doolittle in “My Fair Lady,” and last fall, she took on the role of Wednesday Addams in the musical production of “The Addams Family.”
“It’s funny, because for a long time I was stuck being too young for the leading parts, but I was too old to play a kid,” she said.
Playing Belle, arguably the most popular of all the Disney princesses, might be her toughest role yet. Obviously, people will come into this particular show with a high expectation, but performing as Belle and nailing the part makes Riedl nervous, yet excited.
Cooper also has some big and furry shoes to fill. He is essentially playing two characters: the prince and the beast he is then transformed into.
“I saw the live production at the Cheyenne Civic Center and the act one finale song that Beast has, I fell in love with it,” he said. “I thought that if I could ever get the chance to play him, I wanted to do it. I knew it would be a challenge, but I wanted the opportunity to be able to tell such a beautiful story.”
The director and the leads definitely believe they will end the show with a new appreciation not only for the Disney film, but the story of Belle and the Beast, which has been a part of the cultural lexicon since the 1740s, being adapted into scores of films, books, shows and much more. It’s hard to think of any type of art form without thinking of at least one adaptation of “Beauty and the Beast.”
The three feel the story is incredibly important to keep as a part of our art history, noting how timeless it is.
“Being able to experience this show in a personal way has meant so much to me,” Cooper said. “This story has such an impact on so many different people and cultures over the centuries, and I’ve gotten a new understanding of that after being a part of this show.”