Be their guest for Children’s Theatre production of ‘Beauty and the Beast Jr.’

From left, cast members of The Children’s Theatre production of “Beauty and the Beast Jr.” are Deanna Crocker as Mrs. Potts, Caezar Falu as Chip, Cassidy Yiengst as Babette, Nikolas Mandalas as the Beast, Isabella Shade as Belle, Olivia Francis as Madame de la Grande Bouche, Justin Truitt as LeFou and Emily Peppard as Lumiere. (Special to the Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh)


DOVER – A Disney classic takes the stage this weekend in the form of “Beauty and the Beast Jr.” at the Schwartz Center courtesy of The Children’s Theatre Inc.

Despite the musical being one of the most famous Disney tales, the Children’s Theatre has only performed the show one other time, more than 20 years ago. But with a new live-action film out last year, the timing seemed right.

“My co-director, Ami Leaming, and I found it sometimes challenging as directors because movies, especially cartoons can do things we cannot replicate on stage,” said director Sharon Crossen. “However, our show has some innovative ways to bring the characters and plot to life.”

One of the ways of doing just that was by renting the signature characters’ costumes, including Belle’s stunning yellow gown.

“Putting the dress on was a dream come true,” said Isabella Shade, 15, of Dover, playing the role of Belle. “Belle is my favorite Disney princess so I was really excited for the role and the dress is just amazing.”

“Beauty and the Beast” is Isabella’s second show with the Children’s Theatre, the first being “The Music Man.”

“I really love musicals and I’m in chorus at school. So I definitely love the singing aspect,” she said. “There are two movies that everyone has seen though. So there is a lot of pressure and I think the audience’s expectations will be high. But I think I’ll be able to pull it off.”

It is helpful that all of the actors have come in knowing all the music and most of the lines. So the directors have been able to put a lot of effort into the fine tuning.

“Most the music is very familiar to our actors, so our music director, Tim Plimpton, works very hard with them to teach them proper technique and vocalization,” Ms. Crossen said.

Nikolas Mandalas and Isabella Shade have the lead roles as The Beast and Belle in the Children’s Theatre production of “Beauty and the Beast Jr.” (Special to the Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh)

“I’m just obsessed with ‘Beauty and the Beast,’” said Olivia Francis, 14, of Dover, playing Madame de la Grande Bouche. “All Disney movies are great but I have a special attachment to the music from ‘Beauty and the Beast’ and I think a lot of other kids here feel the same way.”

Playing the Beast opposite of Isabella’s Belle is 15-year-old Nikolas Mandalas.

“I think the costumes looks great and although mine is pretty warm, it looks good,” he said.

With a character that changes from a misunderstood beast to a charming prince, Nikolas has quite the task ahead of him.

“Playing a complex role like the Beast is a really good challenge for me,” he said. “He undergoes a big transformation in the story so I have to be able to present his whole character even though from the beginning there’s more than it seems.”

He has been acting for seven years and is now the oldest of three Mandalas siblings in The Children’s Theatre.

Maurice, Belle’s father, is played by Paul Edelman in the Children’s Theatre production of “Beauty and the Beast Jr.” coming to Dover’s Schwartz Center for the Arts Saturday and Sunday. (Special to the Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh)

Emily Peppard, 13, of Dover, portraying the role of Lumiere, an enchanting candelabra, is donning one of the special costumes with candles as hands and a hat.

“I love it, but it does get tiring keeping my hands up in the air the entire show. You’re used to moving your arms as you sing and dance, so it’s a little difficult,” she said.

Emily is going above and beyond to capture the essence of Lumiere by working hard on her French accent to ensure it fits with the beloved character.

“I watched a lot of YouTube videos,” she said. “I knew about changing the ‘th’ to a z, but there were a lot of other nuances I had to learn.”

Villagers are portrayed by, clockwise, from bottom left, Sarah Mercer, Sydney Hussman, Regina Guerrero, Violet Radziewicz and Lily Truitt. (Special to the Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh)

For others like Justin Truitt, 11 of Dover, portraying Lefou, aka Gaston’s wingman, the role came more naturally.

“I love this character,” he said. “He’s energetic and enthusiastic and a lot more similar to how I am than most of the characters I play usually are.”

Justin is in his third year with The Children’s Theatre and has gained a love of theater.

“I was just looking for something to do outside of school and acting here has been a great fit and I’ve made a lot of great new friends too,” he said.

Although all the actors enjoy acting and singing, one of the highlights of The Children’s Theatre is working and playing with other kids.

Wolves Evy Laise and Sawyer Shade attack The Beast played by Nikolas Mandalas. (Special to the Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh)

“We have all become great friends and we work together as a team,” Nikolas said. “It’s great to go into a show working together and create a great final product.”

“Beauty and the Beast Jr.” will be performed at the Schwartz Center for the Arts at 226 S. State St. in Dover on Saturday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.

All seats are $10.

Audience members are welcome to attend dressed as their favorite character. At intermission all costumed children may show their costume on stage.

Caezar Falu plays the part of Chip. (Special to the Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh)

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