CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Beginning Friday, relive the magic and wonder of Walt Disney's beloved classic "Beauty and the Beast" with the Children's Theatre of Charleston. Leave present-day concerns behind and be swept away to the French countryside, a raucous tavern and an intimidating medieval castle. Watch dishes and flatware dance across the stage, wolves attack and bustling villagers gossip.
The group's show, "Disney's Beauty and the Beast Jr.," is a shortened one-act version of the Broadway musical adapted from the Oscar -winning film. However, it still features the songs, characters and scenes that everyone -- including those involved in the production -- knows and loves.
"Being a part of a Disney show is the opportunity of a lifetime," said musical director Mary Beth Malcolm, beaming. "Theatrical music magnifies the emotions; the bigger the music is, the more fun I have."
Director Derek Samms has spent the last several weeks focusing on solidifying staging and music memorization with his cast because time in the Civic Center Little Theater this week will be devoted to technical rehearsal. The show has time-consuming special effects to delight the audience, including flying cloaks, enchanted objects and a smoking, ringing motorized invention.
Actors have been busily preparing the musical's adored songs, such as "Be Our Guest," "Gaston," "The Mob Song," "Something There" and the Academy Award-winning "Beauty and the Beast." In addition to providing the music for those songs, Malcolm, the show's pianist, will also play music that helps shape the atmosphere.
"The underscoring music is very important to me, just as much as the songs," she said. "And the finale is a classic Disney moment."
For the actors, there is more to learning their parts than memorizing movements and the words to songs. To become their characters, they have to practice other things, like how to speak.
"Nailing the French accent is definitely the most challenging aspect," said Isaac Miller, who plays the flamboyant Lumiere.
Portraying the pompous clock Cogsworth is Isaac's brother, Asa, who admits he's watched the 1991 film at least once a week since work on the production started. "The movie really helps with accents and several ways of speaking each line," he said.
Besides the accent, another challenge will be maneuvering the stage dressed as a clock, he says. "Moving around in our large costumes will be difficult to accomplish."
"Beauty and the Beast," of course, is the story of a young village girl, Belle, and the cursed prince-turned-beast she becomes a captive of in exchange for her father's freedom. In the castle, she finds support from the castle servants, who were turned into household objects when the Beast was cursed.
Will the beast find love with Belle before the final petal of the enchanted rose falls, leaving him a beast forever? Or will Gaston, the village's handsome brute, steal Belle away and marry her, as he is determined to do?
Along with the Millers, the Children's Theatre cast of "Disney's Beauty and the Beast Jr." includes Lily Odekirk as Belle, Lucas Parsons as the Beast, Katrina Scarpelli-Mulyono as Mrs. Potts, Spencer Rheinlander as Chip, Amanda Maynus as Babette, Hope Snodgrass as Madame de la Grande Bouche, Noah Gillespie as Gaston, Seth Skiles as Maurice and Angel Gandee as Lefou.