A Beauty of a Start to a 50th Season at Orange Park Community Theatre

Disney’s Beauty and the Beast

With a rendition of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast that had everyone laughing, clapping, ooh-ing and aah-ing, Orange Park Community Theatre kicks off its 50th Anniversary season. For a small stage, this theatre touts big talent. Director Sara Green brings to life a show that delights the senses of young and old alike, and I say that because the entire audience, with a fairly full house, was clearly enjoying themselves throughout.

The characters are well-cast, the vocals (Jeremy McKinnies) and choreography (Javi Fernandez) are wonderful, and there are audible gasps and claps from the audience with the myriad of reveals from colorful costumes to kick-lines, to a Murphy bed for the quick change to Belle’s bedroom. I even had to check out how they did the town and tavern. They have no fly space, so they used painted vertical blinds.

This tale as old as time opens with a storybook telling of why the Prince is transformed into the Beast. I won’t give away the reveal, other than to say it is the most unique I’ve ever seen. From there, we’re taken to the Provincial town where we meet Belle, exquisitely portrayed by Morgan Perry and a large ensemble (Najile Robinson, Garrett Bleu, Juliana Cubbedge, Bella Duchemin, Jasper Esquivel, Ella Gibson, Polly Gibson, Mary Grace Gibson, Jamie-Lynn Hartley, Trent Kay, Shelvin Lamb, Ian Leduc, Chawki M’Hadheb, Grace Rodriguez, Skyla Seagrove). A short time later, Belle’s nemesis, Gaston (Taylor Scott) and his hilarious sidekick Lefou (Bryan Martins) enter the scene to be greeted by the cutest group of tittering Silly Girls (Maria Beattie, Nadia Nightingale, Kiana Soriano, Megan Trefry, Caroline Yazdiya).

After Gaston makes his intent to marry Belle clear, we meet Belle’s somewhat absent-minded professor type father Maurice (Rick Cubbedge), who can’t seem to keep himself out of trouble. Trying to get his invention to a contest, he gets lost in the woods, winding up at the Enchanted Castle when running from wolves.

There Maurice meets the wondrously clad and well-portrayed objects – Cogsworth (Geoff DuChemin) who can’t help ticking around everywhere, the incredibly animated Lumiere (Austin Kelley) who flirts with just about everyone and works hard to coax his master’s behavior, the subdued Mrs. Potts (Kimberly Cadley-Mach) who is the maternal figure in the household with her adorable son, Chip (Aaron Gibson), and Babette (Kayla O’Connor) who is Lumiere’s girlfriend and a flirt herself. Of course, Maurice should not be in the castle, so the huge Beast, nicely done by Adam Fields, throws him in the dungeon. It isn’t until Belle agrees to take her father’s place as the Beast’s prisoner that we meet Mme Bouche (Michelle DuChemin), the wonderfully over-the-top opera singer with voice to match. Her “skirt” is a wooden dresser – complete with a functional drawer!

The only character not introduced in the first act of the play is D’Arque, the caretaker of the local asylum, played effectively dark by Colby Sad.

This production rivals those done at larger theaters, with performers coming together from numerous stage and musical backgrounds.  Austin Kelley and Bryan Martins just closed in the wonderful Peter and Alice the weekend prior to Beauty and the Beast opening. Morgan Perry and Adam Fields were recently in Sister Act, and Morgan will be appearing in Something Rotten.

Tickets are $25, although Saturdays have a Student rate (including children and college students) of $10. There is also a Saturday “sing-along” matinee posted for 9/14.

OPCT is located at 2900 Moody Ave. in Orange Park. For reservations or information, you can go to www.opct.info, call 904-276-2599 or go to www.showtixnow.com. Their 50th anniversary season continues with the classic Bell, Book, and Candle, the musical Company, then two more classics: Night of January 16th  (in January) and closing with Singing in the Rain. A very interesting mix of contemporary and classic to mark a special event in their history.

About Cessy Newmon