Get ready to immerse yourself in a “tale as old as time” as “Beauty and the Beast” comes to Tullahoma.

The South Jackson Civic Center production of Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” opens on Friday night as part of the South Jackson Theatre Series at the center, 404 S. Jackson St.

Under the direction of Greg Gressel, dinner plates will dance, silverware will sing and some very special characters will come to life.

Based on the wildly successful 1991 animated Disney movie and dating back to a late 18th-century classic French fairy tale, “Beauty and the Beast” tells the story of Belle (Samantha Terrell-Watters), a beautiful and intelligent young woman who feels out of place in her “poor provincial town.”

Belle’s problems with her town aren’t merely superficial, either. She also must endure the sustained advances of the handsome but boorish Gaston (Mark Thommasson), who, along with his sidekick LeFou (Randall King), keep scheming up ways for Gaston and Belle to marry.

But when Belle’s father, Maurice (Curtis Hice), is imprisoned in a mysterious castle, her attempt to rescue him leads to her capture by the Beast (David Woodfin), a grisly and fearsome monster who was long ago trapped in his gruesome form by an enchantress. The only way for the Beast to become human once again is to learn to love and be loved in return. There is a time limit, though: once a magical rose loses all of its petals, all hope will be lost and the enchanted prince will remain the Beast forever.

The Beast’s enchanted household – populated by such beloved characters as Mrs. Potts (Doreen Schulz Gibson), Lumière (Zeb Swerske), Cogsworth (Jon Rubke), Chip (Lily Duckworth) and Madame de la Grande Bouche (Amy Beckstead) – watch anxiously as Belle and the Beast grow to understand and befriend one another. Their feelings grow ever deeper as the clock ticks and petals continue to fall off the enchanted rose – but will they confess their love for one another before it is too late?

 

A challenging feat

According to Gressel, the production is one that South Jackson officials have been wanting to produce for some time, so when the opportunity arose they immediately snatched it up.

“We’ve always wanted to put on productions that were current and exciting for our community,” Gressel said. “We have had a tough time setting our season the last couple of years, because all the things that we seem to choose are touring.”

Touring productions aren’t typically available to local theater groups, so once “Beauty and the Beast” came out of restricted use, the group set to work on putting it together.

“This had been limited at one point but was available [now], and so we grabbed it and jumped at the opportunity,” he said.

The show is definitely an investment for those involved, Gressel said, but it’s an investment worth making.

“As long as we felt like we could make the commitment, financially, to the costumes and set,” Gressel said, the show was “doable,” though still a challenge.

“We wanted to challenge our actors and actresses here locally,” he said, “and this is a very challenging role, but we felt like we could do this and bring it to our community. It’s taken a lot of work and still more work to come, but we think that it was something that we could really take on.”

 

Tea Party

Witnessing the magic on stage isn’t the only way for fans of the fairy tale to enjoy the show, according to center officials.

To drum up excitement for the show itself, the community is also invited to a special tea party on opening weekend.

The special Beauty and the Beast Tea Party is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. on Saturday, April 6, for children ages 4 and older, center officials announced.

Tickets for the tea-riffic time are $15 each and will grant patrons access to games, photo ops, snacks, prizes and more, including a chance to possibly meet some of their favorite French fairy tale characters.

Those who wish to attend the tea party are encouraged to dress up as their favorite characters from the show, though dressing up is certainly not required, center officials said.

For more information about the tea party, contact South Jackson at 931-455-5321 or visit www.southjackson.org.

 

Full cast and crew

Including the main characters, Tullahoma’s production of “Beauty and the Beast” will see nearly 70 people bringing the show to life.

Rounding out the cast are Bethany Watkins, Nathan Lowry, Ben Utz, Cameron Odom, Haylie Hansen, Sarah Anderson, Anna Campbell, Abigail English, Mikayla Gressel, Madelyn Hansen, Kaicie Kidd, Allyson Popovich, Heather Kleinfeld, Cynthia Reddekop, Kendyn Brock, Allen Craig, Michael Mundy, Elizabeth Womack, Todd Nichols, Crystal McCullough, Joanna Jobe, Marley Swerske, R.J. Hayes, Allie Hice, Lynette DeWolfe, Brennan Clarneau, Tommy Dimon, Braxton Gardner, Edward Henry, Hyatt Vacek, Luke Yates, Emma Cagianese, Ella Dimon, Rachel Dye, Aubrey Lawson, Karalee Lawrence, Dakka Partin, Amethyst Phillips, Betsy Phillips, Lauren Rogers, Jamie Roberts, Michelle Rowe, Zoe Stinson, Alexa Thompson, Alex Wiley, Maddy Wiley, Amelia Beckstead, Eve Beckstead, Cathleen Close, Amanda Garner-Loos, Cindy Mundy, Susan Rubke, Andrea Stewart, Autumn Shrum, Sherrie Terrell and Audrey Yates.

On Gressel’s team are Assistant Director Melissa Shuran, Producers Coleen Saunders and Kathryn Hopkins, Orchestra Director Ann Baldwin and Cast Coordinator Darlene Gilliam.

Choreography was provided by Samantha Boggs of The Dance Company.

 

If you want to go

All those who attend should be ready for a familiar story filled with larger-than-life characters ready to take you on a magical journey, according to Gressel.

When asked what audiences should expect, Gressel said they should prepare to feel a litany of emotions.

“I think they’ll laugh, they’ll feel the heart of it, maybe even cry, but [they’ll] definitely be fully entertained and have the opportunity to really connect with a story that we’ve seen and heard over the years – a tale as old as time,” he said.

Tickets are on sale now at www.southjackson.org and will also be available for purchase at the door.

Prices are $20 per adult ticket or $17 for students.

All tickets purchased in advance on the website are discounted at $18 per person or $15 for students.

There are six showings over the next two weekends. Show times are 7 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, as well as 2:30 p.m. on Sundays. The show will run this weekend and next, April 5 through 7 and 12 through 14.

For more information, visit www.southjackson.org or call the center at 931-455-5321.

Erin McCullough may be reached at emccullough@tullahomanews.com.