A Port Richmond fairy tale

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.