Disney's Beauty and the Beast
by Christian Youth Theater

Who could ever learn to love a beast? Millions have since Disney’s Oscar-nominated animated film came out in 1991, later to be transformed into a stage version that launched Disney into their highly successful theatrical career. And which eventually allowed Christian Youth Theater-Chicago to stage this “tale as old as time” at the Hemmens Cultural Center in Elgin, Illinois.

Talented fifteen-year-old Lauren Menzer stars as book-loving beauty Belle. She has a beautiful voice, large expressive eyes that light up when she reads her beloved books (she’s so excited that she mouths the words), and she does well as both the sweet and adoring daughter of her inventor father (Erik Scheele) and in her relationship with the Beast. Kevin Wright is said Beast, and he combines with Belle for some great scenes as he begins falling for her, doing so with such clumsy enthusiasm that he picks up a bemused Belle to put her in her chair and splashes her with his drink when he attempts to clink glasses. They work great together on such first-date scenes as Something There and the title song.

The two of them are surrounded by several enchanting enchanted objects. Samuel Stalker makes for an especially humorous Cogsworth, the stuffy clock with excellent comic timing and personality. Alex Hallberg is a charismatic Lumiere, and works well with his ever-flirting girlfriend feather duster Babette (Katelyn Almeida). Becky Weise is a riot as the operatic Wardrobe. Rachael Caise sings a nice rendition of Beauty and the Beast. Lydia Stalker is the sensitive mirror who doesn’t like it when the Beast expresses displeasure at her “stupid” handiwork on his hair, angrily throwing one of the hair rollers to the floor.

Elsewhere, DJ Ulbert is an amusingly cocky, self-infatuated egomaniac Gaston who won’t stop until Belle is his. Mike Egler is a hit as Gaston’s pathetic, scaredy-cat sidekick LeFou who is not afraid to slam his face into the floor for laughs and unsuccessfully trying to impress an amusing quartet of ditzy Silly Girls. He’ll also be remembered for congratulating Belle on a nice song, trying to give her a high-five, and making himself laugh so hard that he passes gas, discreetly trying to wave it away with the scarf once owned by Belle’s father (Belle handles all of this as politely as she could be expected to). Despite his song being cut, Eric Bender is humorously diabolical as the unscrupulous owner of the local insane asylum.

The ensemble features a bunch of provincial townspeople happily singing the praises of Gaston, some relatively gentle wolves who seem content with just scaring Maurice to the ground and making off with his scarf, and a terrific group of napkins who lead the rest of the enthusiastic furniture in the big Be Our Guest number. But for lack of the library, the sets are impressive. The costumes and lighting are excellent. Overall, Director Christie Follett’s production is both creatively fun and full of the great visuals needed for the magic of this show.

Performed March 7 - 9, 2008.

Rob Hopper
Executive Director
National Youth Theatre

~ Cast ~

Belle: Lauren Menzer
Beast: Kevin Wright
Maurice: Erik Scheele
Gaston: DJ Ulbert
Mrs. Potts: Rachael Caise
LeFou: Mike Egler
Lumiere: Alex Hallberg
Cogsworth: Samuel Stalker
Chip: Trent Baumann
Babette: Katelynn Almeida
Wardrobe: Becky Weise
Monsieur D'Arque: Eric Bender
Enchantress: Rachel Whiteside
Young Prince/Beast Double: Joey Dybdal

Silly Girls:
Kara Gardner
Shelby Hirschberg
Natalie Lubbers
Jennifer Schmidt

Abbey Stombres
Lindsey Benda
Joshua Brehm
Sarah Brehm
Alise Blunk
Nicoletta Calabrese
Micaela Davis
Joshua Dille
Nathan Dille
Samantha Eyerly
Heather Gawlik
Christina Hahn
Danielle Jacobson
Madeline King
Reagan Koehler
Annie Linder
Jeremy Mansfield
Shannon McCoy
Ashley Mortenson
Chelsea Oleson
Melissa Patterson
Claire Perham
Abbey Prochaska
Karina Ramos
Kayla Ramos
Alexis Stanley
Cameron Tabb
Mary Taylor
Rachel Wolfe
Peter Wojtal
Hailey Wright
Ashley Zozokos

Jonathan Stombres
Eric Bender
Joey Dybdal
Caleb McCoy
Christian Stilwell

Tavern Dancers:
Cami Benda
Alise Blunk
Brittany Eder
Joanna Flesher
Courtney Hirschenberg
Gabrielle Jacobson
Melissa Patterson
Katie Pratt
Taylor Shepard
Mary Taylor
Emma Ulbert

Enchanted Objects:
Emily Bender
Alyssa Gorman
Lauren Hallberg
Kristen Herman
Rachel Jurina
Joaquin Mendoza
Chelsea McCoy
Grace Scheele
Lydia Stalker
Adelyn Tabb
Rachel Whiteside

Nicolette Almeida
Samantha Freres
Kimber Pritts
Kristen Pratt
Sydney Wellnitz

Jessica Boutin
Lizzie Gow
Cassie King
Kristen Mills

Ashley Egler
Lindsey Hirschberg
Lauren Hoffman
Taylor Streelman
Whitney Woodhouse

Cami Benda
Brittany Eder
Joanna Flesher
Courtney Hirschberg
Gabrielle Jacobson
Katie Pratt
Taylor Shepard
Emma Ulbert

Alyssa Eder
Isabella Hoffman
Megan Murphy
Olivia Newbill
Amanda Spencer
Winnie Woodhouse

Cami Benda
Joanna Flesher
Gabrielle Jacobson
Melissa Patterson
Emma Ulbert

Director: Christie Follett
Choreographer: Taylor Kras
Music Directors: Joshua Hoegh and Martine Hunter


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