Young People's Theatre takes big step with 'Beauty and the Beast' at Power Center
Young People’s Theater is inviting the community to be its guest as the company presents “Beauty and the Beast,” performed by a cast of 92 young people ranging in age from 5-18.
And while the size and makeup of the musical's cast isn’t unusual for a YPT production, “Beauty” is arguably the company’s most ambitious show to date — with huge sets, more than 200 elaborate costumes (including a rather heavy wardrobe ensemble), and a venue (the nearly 1,400-seat Power Center) that’s far bigger than the theaters that YPT has used in the past.
“When we were scheduling for our season, there wasn’t a theater available to us this spring except the Power Center and the Arthur Miller Theatre,” said producer Ane Richter. “The Miller is so small, so that wouldn’t really work. And I thought, ‘What kid doesn’t deserve the chance to perform in a real theater like the Power Center?’ We came up with ‘Beauty and the Beast’ because it’s a big theater, and so we needed a big show. It’s been quite an adventure.”Of course, the larger venue has necessarily demanded a bigger investment in rental fees and in paying professionals to aid in the show’s technical elements (like sound); consequently, YPT is taking a bit of a gamble with “Beauty.” But the hope is that heightened ambitions will draw out bigger crowds.
“We were looking for a show that would appeal to all ages and be more of a family-oriented draw,” said Richter. “The Power Center’s huge, so we asked ourselves, ‘What would people want to see?’ Because there are lots of big shows out there, but some of them are not big draws, and not as familiar.”
YPT has the same limited venue options for next year, too, so according to Richter, “We’re going to try it out now and see how it goes.”
Working in a new venue always has some hidden challenges that arise as you go — like, how and where can 92 kids be dropped off by their parents near the Power Center? — leading Richter to say that the production has faced “normal challenges, but ‘normal’ times five or 10.”
Yet thanks to the “village” of parents, community members (including some Purple Rose Theatre artists who’ve assisted with fight choreography), young performers, and YPT staffers, preparations have gone relatively smoothly since rehearsals began in February — though everyone involved has been even busier than usual.
For Richter, the earliest signs of the production’s success lie in the responses of the show’s youngest performers, who, when they’re not involved in a scene, have been watching recent run-throughs.
“(Director Jessica Garrett) told me that she was just watching the looks on the faces of these little kids, and it made me shiver, hearing her talk about them,” said Richter. “Their intensity while watching it was so amazing to see. If they’re any indication, kids who come to this show will just love the whole spectacle.”