Staff photo/Heather Spaulding

Staff photo/Heather Spaulding

Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” opens at San Juan Communty Theatre

Learning to love, have patience and not judge others are all lessons that Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” Broadway hit touches upon.

“Don’t be so quick to judge is one of the central themes,” said Carol Hooper, director of the production.

Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” opens at the San Juan Community Theatre Friday, at 7:30 p.m., May 11, and continues Saturday, May 12, and Thursdays-Saturdays 17-19 and 24-26, at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays, at 2 p.m., May 13 and 20. Tickets can be bought online at the theater’s website, or at their box office by calling 360-378-3210. The cost is $23 for adults, $12 for student reserve, $5 student rush, at the door only and Thursdays are pay-what-you-can.

“Beauty and the Beast” was originally a French story, written in the 1700s. Since then, several versions have been published, produced and performed. It was one of the few folktales that focused on the merchant class, which may have helped its popularity. Belle, played by Chelsea Bliss in this production, is the heroine of the tale. Her father Maurice, played by Jim Hooper, picks a rose from the Beast’s garden and is held prisoner as a result. Belle convinces the Beast, performed by Andy Urbach, to release him, and keep her instead. In “a tale as old as time,” Belle and the Beast eventually fall in love, which breaks the spell the Beast and his servants (who have been turned into household objects) have been under. He returns to being a prince and his servants return to their human forms.

“I love Disney’s Broadway version best because it’s longer and has more songs,” said Hooper, explaining that she envisioned the story as a Broadway musical after seeing the Disney cartoon in the 90s. She even wrote Disney expressing that she believed it would make a fantastic musical. Eventually, they did, and it has been one of their most successful productions. Hooper has been wanting to direct the musical for decades.

“It is a lovely story about not judging a book by its cover, and learning to love,” Hooper said.

Belle, she explains, is an outcast simply because she loves to read. At her core she is very kind, spunky, knows her own mind, and is not afraid to stand up for herself, Hooper said.

“She is not your typical Disney princess,” she added.

It is through her kindness that Belle is able to show the Beast how to love. They two fall in love gradually, up until the very end, Belle describes the Beast as a friend. It is only when she is afraid she may lose him that Belle realizes she loves him.

“We all know people like these characters,” Hooper noted, like the narcissist Gaston, who pursues Belle, the outcasts and those that must learn how to express compassion.

Lumiere, the candlestick, played by Brad Fincher, is Hooper’s personal favorite, she said, because besides being funny, he is welcoming to Belle, and does everything he can to make her comfortable.

Many people can relate to the bookworm Belle. Many actors who auditioned for the roll, according to Hooper, told her “I will be perfect; I am Belle.” Playing upon the importance of books to the tale, and attempting to portraying the enormous library the Beast has, there will be an interactive moment as the audience becomes the library. Theatergoers who sit downstairs will have the opportunity to choose a book to hold up during the library scene.

The cast includes approximately 50 islanders. Some actors are new to the stage, some, according to Hooper, have taken some time off and are returning to theater, and others are the usual suspects.

“I really needed a big cast this time, it wasn’t practical to have people running off and changing costumes,” said Hooper, adding that it is a wonderful group of people.

“It is really a fun musical full of energy, and it’s a G-rated family show. All ages will enjoy it,” Hooper said.

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Staff photo/Heather Spaulding

Staff photo/Heather Spaulding