Authentic Community Theatre to bring 'Beauty and the Beast' to Maryland Theatre
Authentic Community Theatre will present the classic tale of a smart, beautiful young lady growing up in a provincial town and the adventures that await her as she encounters a beast who turns out to be a handsome young prince.
A cast of endearing, larger-than-life characters will lead the audience on a journey filled with song and dance at The Maryland Theatre on Friday, Nov. 1, and Saturday, Nov. 2, at 7:30 p.m. for Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast – The Broadway Musical.”
Lawren Palmer of Hagerstown, stars as Belle in the first musical theater production she has done since college. Palmer, 30, has a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in music and usually focuses primarily on classical. Musical theater is not all that much of a stretch from her operatic background, she said, other than in the number of spoken lines.
“I will say I had a really hard time with the lines. That makes me feel old,” she said laughing. “In an operatic setting you sing everything. In musical theater, there are so many lines to memorize. It’s much easier for me to remember when there is music with it.”
Palmer said she also has enjoyed the challenge of honing her skills in line delivery.
“Music really heightens the drama in opera. In musical theater, you have to think about the way you inflect every single word,” she said. “You have to find the right and the most authentic way to say lines.”
The “tremendously talented” cast of nearly 50 players has helped her through that process, Palmer said.
“Learning lines and dealing with the acting component of everything in rehearsal has been very easy. They make it easy for me to work off of them, to bounce off of them and to feed off of them because this cast is so amazing,” she said.
Palmer also noted that the show is well-cast with actors suited to their roles.
“Beast will scare your pants off. Gaston will make you laugh. Mrs. Potts will make you fall in love,” she said.
She described the voice of Britany Atwater, who portrays the nurturing but no-nonsense teapot Mrs. Potts, as “what I imagine liquified chocolate sounds like.”
“Wait until you hear Britany sing,” she said. “It’s so beautiful and so rich.”
Atwater credited composer Alan Menken for the beautiful composition of the songs of “Beauty and the Beast.”
“There are things that are very difficult at times to learn but once we locked in our harmony it was wonderful,” she said.
While Mrs. Potts is typically cast for an actor with a lower voice, Atwater is a soprano.
“I’m singing higher music, high lines in the show, so that’s a fun little twist that people get to listen to and hear,” she said.
Her favorite song in the show is one that is sung as a duet between Belle and her father Maurice, played by Zane Oberholzer.
“‘No Matter What’ is such a lovely little number. It’s such a beautiful little scene to watch and to listen to,” she said. “Of course there are a lot of fun little things. There really is something for everyone in the family, a little bit for everyone.”
Some elements from the popular Disney film “Beauty and the Beast” are carried over in the musical, while there are “little surprises for people who have not seen the live production before,” Atwater said.
Dustin Perrott of Hagerstown acts as Gaston, a handsome but rude and conceited man who has his sights set on Belle, then realizes Belle has feelings for Beast and sets out to kill him. Though Perrott has done a number of shows with ACT, this is an unusual role for him.
“It’s fun. I never really got to play a villainous character before,” he said. “I’ve had to explore different ways to convey that kind of a character, and still give him a little bit of likability, especially at the beginning of the show so people think he is harmless. Then people realize he is a monster, but it’s a slow reveal of sorts.”
Bryan Brown of Baltimore has acted in “Beauty and the Beast” before both in the ensemble and as Gaston. He sought out another production of the musical in hopes of portraying Beast, and landed the role with ACT.
“It was fun playing Gaston, but Beast is more of a complex character, I would say. He is very quick to get angry. He has a very short temper when things don’t go his way,” he said. “He has grown up all his life acting however he wants and when Belle comes in and stands up to him, he is like, ‘Whoa! What is this? I am not used to this.’”
The musical offers more than people see in the film, Brown said, including relationships between Gaston and Belle, Belle and Maurice, Beast and his servants and the townspeople and Beast.
“There are a lot of different relationships in the show that come to light more in the musical than in the animated film. People will see that and fall in love with that,” Brown said. “I think this will be one that if people don’t see, they will regret it. They will wish they had come to the show.”
Top photo: Lawren Palmer brings one of her favorite Disney characters to life starring as Belle in ACT's presentation of Disney's "Beauty and the Beast." (Photo by October Hollow Photography)