Local youth are taking on the iconic roles of Belle, the Beast, Cogsworth, Lumiere and Gaston and more in Bard to Broadway’s Teen Musical Theatre production of Beauty and the Beast Jr., premiering Thursday, Aug. 16.
Now in its ninth season, the Teen Musical Theatre (TMT) program of B2B gives teens ages 13-18 three weeks and 13 rehearsals to learn their singing, dancing and acting parts, help build a set, put together costumes and put on a professional show.
This year, under the direction of Hilary Whelton and alumni Miranda Atkinson (co-director and choreographer), 29 teens are taking part in the Beauty and the Beast Jr. musical — a show that Whelton said she’s wanted to do for quite some time.
“We all love the music,” she said, but added that the costumes are proving more challenging than other shows. But part of the program is that all those participating take part in everything it takes to put on a show, including helping to create their own costumes at times. In putting together the Lumiere costume, Whelton said she found herself trying flower pots on her head.
“It’s all coming together,” she said with a smile.
Unlike in regular theatre productions where directors can search for just the right person for each role, the TMT program works with whoever joins, whatever their skill level. But every year, they seem to have just the right young actors for the available roles said Whelton.
Some of this year’s actors include Jessica Kelly as Belle, Jesse Brittain as the Beast, Emma Murphy as Cogsworth, Ben Rosnau as Lumiere, Logan Pike as LeFou and Oscar Cope as Gaston.
Cope is one of the veterans of the TMT program, this being his sixth year. He’s also taken part in several Bard to Broadway productions, including Chicago this year.
He said the program has been invaluable for him. “This program is the big reason why I want to go into theatre,” he said, noting that, having recently graduated high school, he’ll be attending Capilano University for theatre.
Cope said the program is great for giving those interested in theatre a broad education in the many aspects of putting on a production, as well as teaching young actors how to be professional both on stage and in rehearsal.
Cope is one of several veteran members of this year’s cast who are taking acting in the program for the last time, though many alumni come back to watch or help, said Whelton.
Playing Gaston is a great way to end his TMT career, said Cope. “It’s so much fun. I’ve always wanted to play Gaston,” he said. “I can relate to being a pompous arrogant jerk,” he said with a laugh.
Cope added he’s especially happy with the role because he gets to perform alongside his friend and talented actor, Pike as LeFou. “This is a really nice last hurrah with all my friends,” said Cope.
Though a fair number of actors are on their last year, Whelton said she’s not worried for the program as many young actors are taking part for the first time.
Murphy is taking part for her first time, having participated in other musicals and plays in school.
Murphy said she values the opportunity to learn so much about different parts of a production, saying that the program “is very community based. Everyone’s doing a lot of everything.”
It’s also a great way to get connected up with Bard to Broadway, she said.
Murphy said she’s enjoying her role as Cogsworth, despite having to wear an involved costume that she can neither get into or get out of herself, or even sit down.
She said it’s teaching her how to be expressive while wearing a large costume, noting she’s working on the Cogsworth walk.
The accent is also a fun challenge, she said, adding that she’s particularly enjoying Cogsworth’s combination of confidence and fear of the Beast, especially when interjecting with tips on politeness.
Beauty and the Beast Jr. premiers at the Village Theatre (110 West 2nd Ave in Qualicum Beach) on Thursday, Aug. 16, with two shows on Aug. 17 and Aug. 18 each.
For more info and for tickets, go to b2btheatre.com/tmts.