ROCKINGHAM — Auditions for Richmond Community Theater’s upcoming musical production of Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” began in early December — and after two months of rehearsals, the stage is set for its opening later this week.
Mary Ann Deese, a local artist who worked on the sets Monday afternoon, said she has enjoyed helping out behind the scenes.
Shelly Walker, theater director, said Deese has worked on sets for previous productions.
“‘Crimes of the Heart’ was last season, so she did a show last season for us,” Walker said.
Deese explained that the job is primarily about turning ordinary things into what Walker wants to see, what the actors need around them, and what the audience expects to see.
An artist, Deese has several projects on display at Arts Richmond.
“But that’s really totally different from this,” she said. “Because when I’m doing my art work, I’m doing what I want to do — but what I’m doing here is what will make this play good, what will make it believable. I have to rely on (Walker), because she knows what she wants to see onstage. She doesn’t go over every stroke I paint, but she gives me the general idea and tells me if what I put up here matches what she had in mind.”
The most difficult part about working with sets, Deese said, has been “getting up and down on the ladder, for me. But, I would think the difficult thing for this play would be to make the sets. People who are able to get everything that’s needed up here on the stage are amazing.”
“It’s a problem-solving puzzle,” Walker said, speaking of the limited space available on the stage and the logistics of managing a large cast clad in elaborate costumes and almost constantly in motion.
The actors come from many different backgrounds and levels of experience, but during a rehearsal Monday night, they sounded as if they’d been doing this all their lives.
Teressa Beavers said she’s had a lot of fun rehearsing for her role as one of the townspeople, and has enjoyed the beautiful costumes and the singing.
“It’s been very challenging, the amount of time we’ve put into it,” she said. “I’m sure we all have busy schedules, but it’s been so much fun and we’re looking forward to presenting it. I know the children are going to love it. Being an educator, I certainly know the children will have a blast when they come and see it.”
Carly McKay, who plays the enchanted feather-duster, Babette, said the costumes are precious. Coming from a musical background and profession, she seemed perfectly at ease with the concept of acting, singing and dancing in a single production.
“I’m a chorus teacher,” she said. “I teach at Scotland Senior High School. I studied opera in college.”
“I am a townsperson, a wolf and a bartender,” said Corinne Peacock. “Pretty much everything that anyone needs. I’m also the only bowl you will see.”
Jason Harris, who plays the enchanted candelabra Lumiere, is no stranger to the stage.
“I’ve been in three other productions with the theater,” he said. “I sing with the Moore County Choral Society, and I’m often a featured soloist with them. And so, getting chance to blend my love of acting and singing has been a lot of fun. It’s been challenging, memorizing all the lines, and all the lyrics to the songs, but it’s been a lot of fun.”
Zuri Covington, who also has more than one role in the production, said he’s done stunts for the Beast character and plays a townsperson, the book salesman, and even one of Gaston’s adoring goons.
“This is my first time,” he said. “It’s been fun, a learning experience and something I would like to do again.”
He added that he’s never seen Disney’s animated version of the musical, but he plans to watch it once the show has run its course.
“I was going to see it, but they said I should develop my own character without watching it first,” Covington explained.
Rockingham’s Assistant City Manager Sabrina McDonald, who plays a townsperson and a wolf, said having a part in the musical is a little like a fairy tale.
“Even before the animated version of ‘Beauty and Beast,’ I was a fan,” she said. “My mother was a teaching assistant, and she brought home a cassette tape and a book. It was a read-along. I have been a fan of the story since I was 8 or 9 years old, so this is like a dream come true.”
The first showing is at 8 p.m. Thursday. For information, call 910-997-3765.
Reach reporter Melonie McLaurin at 910-817-2673 and follow her on Twitter @meloniemclaurin.