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Curtain Rises: Civic Theatre School has “Beauty” of a show

More than 100 young performers will tell a “tale old as time” when Civic Theatre School presents “Beauty and the Beast, Jr.” April 4 to 7 on the Main Stage of Civic Theatre of Allentown.

The performance is the culmination of the school year for Civic Theatre School, the longest continuously-operating theater arts education program for young performers in the Lehigh Valley.

The school began in the 1950s when Ralpha Senderowitz founded the Children’s Theatre School at what was then Civic Little Theatre. Thousands of young performers have honed their skills as they’ve gone through the program.

From this year’s class, 113 students ages 6 to 18 will take part in “Beauty and the Beast, Jr.”

The musical is directed by JoAnn Wilchek Basist, who herself was a student at Civic Theatre School. Holly Stanley is music director. Mackenzie Lewis is choreographer.

Based on the hit Academy Award-winning 1991 Disney movie and dating back to a late 18th-century classic French fairy tale, “Beauty and the Beast” tells the story of Belle (Alanna Henderson), a beautiful and intelligent young woman who feels out of place in her provincial French village.

When her father (Sam Smith) is imprisoned in a mysterious castle, Belle’s attempt to rescue him leads to her capture by the Beast (Deven Ruiz) a fearsome monster, who was long ago trapped in his gruesome form by an Enchantress (Kaylee Reed).

The only way for the Beast to become human once again is if he learns to love and be loved in return. There is a time limit. Once a magical rose loses its petals, all hope will be lost and he and his household will be doomed for all eternity.

The Beast’s enchanted household, which is populated by such beloved characters as Mrs. Potts (Lila Furst), Lumiere (Joshua Bridges), Cogsworth (Elliot Johnson) and Chip (Cashton Morrow), 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 from the enchanted rose. Will they confess their love for one another before it is too late?

Principal cast members include Dominick Dinzey (Gaston), Connor Simmons (Lefou), Johanna Snyder (Babette), Anna Stump (Madame de la Grande Bouche) and Ben Smith (Monsieur D’Arque).

“Beauty and the Beast, Jr.” is a 60-minute version of the Broadway musical that opened in 1993.

The musical features a score by Alan Menken, lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice and book by Linda Woolverton.

Based on the original Broadway production that ran for more than 13 years and was nominated for nine Tony Awards, winning two Tonys, including for best score, which includes now-classic songs “Be Our Guest,” “Beauty and the Beast” and “Something There.” A new song, “Home,” was written for the musical.

“Beauty and the Beast Jr.,” 6 p.m. April 4, 5; 11 a.m., 2 p.m. April 6, 7, Civic Theatre of Allentown, 527 N. 19th St., Allentown. 610-432-8943; https://civictheatre.com/

“Curtain Rises” is a column about the theater, stage shows, the actors in them and the directors and artists who make them happen. To request coverage, email: Paul Willistein, Focus editor, pwillistein@tnonline.com

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO Alanna Henderson (Belle), Civic Theatre School, “Beauty and the Beast, Jr.,” Civic Theatre of Allentown.