Theater Company of Port Richmond brings Beauty and the Beast to life in production.
By Christopher Seamans
Disney fans in the River Wards, rejoice!
“A tale as old as time” is coming to the Lithuanian Music Hall in Port Richmond.
At the end of the month, the Theatre Company of Port Richmond will premiere its spring show, a production of the beloved musical Beauty and the Beast.
According to Jim McDermott, the show’s director, those who love the film will have no problem recognizing the musical.
“It’s very similar, because it’s Disney’s version,” he explained, “so it’s all the songs that are in the movie as well as some additional that were on Broadway that they wrote: Be Our Guest, Belle — they’re all in there. People are going to recognize the music from the show.”
TCPR is no stranger to mounting productions like this one.
They’ve been putting on shows since 1984, when the group got its start at Nativity B.V.M. parish. Their first production was the musical Mame, and since then they’ve done Bye Bye Birdie, Hello Dolly!, Oklahoma!, The Music Man, Guys and Dolls, 1776, Godspell, Annie, and Man of La Mancha.
The group put on two shows each year, a musical in the spring and a non-musical drama or comedy in the fall, but they’ve had to scale back in the past few years, putting on just one big show a year.
“We did two shows a year up until maybe four years ago when we had to stop the fall show because of budgetary constraints,” McDermott said. “It just got to be too hard to do.”
McDermott has wanted to put on Beauty and the Beast for years, but put it off due to the expense of costumes, sets, and securing the rights to perform the play. However, putting on a Disney play offered the opportunity to attract a different kind of audience.
“Last year we did La Mancha, which was kind of a heavy show,” he said, “but we decided we wanted to do something to get more of the kids involved and maybe bring a younger audience back to the shows. Every once in awhile we like to refresh with a really popular show to bring everybody in, get kids involved, and get younger people involved.”
Although the group got its start fundraising for Nativity, their approach is professional.
McDermott said, “We work hard. It’s fun, but we do take it very seriously. It’s not just a bunch of people in a barn putting on the show in the backyard. We put a lot of work into the sets. We have a live orchestra. We do a lot of work. We pride ourselves on that quality.”
Chris Perrault overjoyed to get the role of the cursed prince, Beast.
“I’ve loved the film since I was a little kid,” he said, “and I was also in Beauty and the Beast before as another character, and I really like the musical.”
Perrault explained that he gets Beast’s emotions and where he’s coming from, and strives to forge a connection with the audience.
“I try to make it like a personable feeling, where people who are watching the musical can relate to him and how he’s feeling — how angry he is and how desperate he is to change the way he is and become a better person. Because clearly before in his past he wasn’t a great person and he’s trying to redeem himself now.”
Emily McDermott said that she seeks to put a different spin on her character, Belle.
“I tend to make my characters a little more feminist, no matter what the character is. I kind of take a different look at the romance part of it, instead of falling right into that moment where it’s all beautiful, it’s more of a working relationship where we’re working on making him better and he’s working on making me better. It’s more of a powerful woman character.”
Both actors are looking forward to opening night.
“I want to meet the kids,” Emily McDermott said. “That’s what I’m most excited for after the show, to see their reaction to it.”
“If you come see us, you’ll be pleasantly surprised,” said Jim McDermott. “A lot of people when they come the first time, they say, ‘I never knew you were here. It’s so great, I’m going to bring my kids next time,’ or ‘How can my kids get involved? Can I join?’ We get new people every year, people who saw us last year, or heard from somebody, but what I want to say to people is come on and give us a try, we’re not expensive. Ten dollars to see the show on a Friday night. Kids can get in for seven. You can come, see the show, bring the family, and just experience it.”
TCPR’s production of Beauty and the Beast premieres at the end of the month at the Lithuanian Music Hall. Dates and times are: Friday, March 31 and April 7 at 8 p.m., Saturday, April 1 and April 8 at 5:00 p.m., Sunday, April 2 and April 9 at 2 p.m. Tickets for the Friday and Sunday shows are $10 and $7 for children. Tickets to the Saturday dinner theater shows are $30 each. Dinner theater tickets must be reserved in advance. They won’t be sold at the door. For more information visit TCPR on Facebook or through their own website at tcpr.org.