An enchanting fairy tale requires a beautiful girl, a prince with a castle, a villain, a crisis and a happy ending. “Beauty and the Beast” has it all plus a hideous ogre. Kids will love it, and adults will be amazed.
“Beauty and the Beast” is co-produced by The Theatre in the Park and the Jewish Community Center. The two organizations share the expense of costumes, props and sets and use the same cast and director in both theaters.
“Beauty and the Beast” opened Saturday in White Theatre at the Jewish Community Center in Overland Park, and plays again Thursday, July 13, at 7:30 p.m. Performances continute at White Theatre through July 23. The play picks back up again at The Theatre in the Park July 28 through Aug. 5 (see schedule).
Belle, the most beautiful girl in the village, is portrayed by Paris Naster of Overland Park. The junior at Point Park University in Pittsburgh, Pa., is majoring in musical theater.
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“Like most little girls I grew up fascinated with ‘Beauty and the Beast’ and wanting to be like Belle,” Naster said. “Belle isn’t the typical princess pursuing love and adoration. She loves books and has a thirst for knowledge.”
Naster graduated from Blue Valley North High School in 2015 and was a finalist in the 2014 KC SuperStar contest for the title of the metro area’s best high school singer. She plans to make musical theater her career.
Naster said her favorite scene takes place in the library of the Beast’s castle.
“He takes Belle to the castle after rescuing her from a pack of wolves that attacked her while she was searching for her lost father,” she said “When the Beast learns of Belle’s love of books, their relationship softens and she realizes for the first time he is more than a monster. I ask him to accompany me to dinner. It’s a cool moment.”
“‘Beauty and the Beast’ has it all: drama, comedy, fantasy and adventure,” said Steven Eubank who directs the show at both theaters. “In addition, the score contains well-loved songs and large group dance numbers. The costumes and sets are imaginative and creative. Disney always invites us to escape into a fantastic and fabulous world.”
Eubank said Belle exemplifies a powerful, young woman.
“She does not conform to the pressures of her community. She dares to be different,” he said. “She embraces her intelligence and values education. Although this musical is set in a time period before electric lights, running water, automobiles or modern technology, Belle is an ideal role model for children in the 21st century.”
The Beast is portrayed by Scott Fagan, a junior at UMKC majoring in theater performance. He hopes to make a career of theater and music. He’s a graduate of Shawnee Mission South high school and lives in Overland Park.
He auditioned for “Beauty and the Beast” because of his connection with Disney and the beautiful stories and music they present to the audience. The production is a beautiful blend of storytelling, rich music and classic characters, but it also provides a much deeper level of truth that so many can relate to and empathize with, he said.
Matt Messing plays the villain, Gaston, who has romantic designs on Belle. Gaston proposes to Belle but is politely rejected. She yearns for a life outside the provincial village.
“I’ve been in four shows at The Theatre in the Park and several more at White Theater but this is my first in one directed by Eubank,” Messing said. “I’m learning a lot from him. When he gives you instructions he explains why.”
Messing grew up in Overland Park, moved to Independence and now is moving back to Overland Park. He’s attending Johnson County Community College and majoring in computer science.
Belle’s father, Maurice, is played by Curt Knupp of Kansas City.
“Maurice is fun to play,” Knupp said. “He’s very intelligent, maybe a little eccentric and forgetful, but very devoted to his daughter.”
“Beauty and the Beast” opened on Broadway in 1994 at the Palace Theatre and ran until Sept. 5, 1999, then moved to the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre a week later and closed in 2007 after 46 reviews and 5,461 performances. As of January 2017 it’s Broadway’s 10th longest running production.
If you go
▪ “Beauty and the Beast” runs July 13, 15, 20 and 22 at 7:30 p.m. in White Theatre at the Jewish Community Center and July 16 and 23 at 2:30 p.m. Tickets are $23 for the public, $16 for JCC members and $12 for students. For mo,re information call 913-327-8054 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
▪ ▪ “Beauty and the Beast” opens July 28 and continues July 29 and 30 and Aug. 2, 3, 4 and 5 at The Theatre in the Park in Shawnee Mission Park at 7710 Renner Road. Curtain time for all shows is 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $8 adults, $6 youths and children 3 and under are free. For more information go to www.theatreinthepark.org.