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Published: Thursday, 7/20/2006

Familiar tales on area stages

BY NANCIANN CHERRY
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Elwood P. Dowd (Steve Copps) places a hat on his invisible friend, Harvey, as niece Myrtle, left
(Britney Koser) and sister Veta (Heather Williams) react in a scene from Harvey. Elwood P. Dowd (Steve Copps) places a hat on his invisible friend, Harvey, as niece Myrtle, left (Britney Koser) and sister Veta (Heather Williams) react in a scene from Harvey.
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Rounding out what Scott Hayes calls its most successful season to date, the University of Findlay SummerStock is putting the finishing touches on Beauty and the Beast.

The Disney musical opens Wednesday in the Egner Center on the Findlay campus.

"Our box office is running about the same as it did last year, which was a record-setting season, and I think Beauty and the Beast will put us over," Hayes, the artistic director of SummerStock, says.

For those few who remain unfamiliar with the story, it goes something like this. Belle, a book-loving dreamer, and her father, the inventor Maurice, live in a small French town, where they are both looked upon as eccentrics. Belle is pursued by Gaston, who has muscles everywhere but in his brain, simply because she is the most beautiful woman in town, but she spurns him.

One day, Maurice gets lost in the forest and, fleeing from wolves, takes refuge in a rundown castle. This, it turns out, is the home of the Beast, who imprisons Maurice for trespassing. Searching for her beloved papa, Belle also comes to the castle and trades her freedom for his. The staff of the castle is rooting for Belle to teach the Beast how to love, for that is the only way to break the evil spell that is slowly turning them into objects, such as a clock, a candlestick, and a teapot.

Gaston, learning of the situation, schemes to use it to force Belle to marry him.

Findlay's SummerStock features a professional core of actors who put on the first two shows, then work with college interns, high school apprentices, and the SummerStock Youth Conservatory to present the big finale, Hayes said.

Beauty and the Beast will feature a company of about 22. Because the first two shows had such small casts - Lady Day at the Emerson Bar and Grill had two performers, and The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) had three - Hayes and his staff looked outside SummerStock for the key roles of Belle and Gaston. They are played by Emma Lorraine, a New York actress, and Nathaniel Hackmann, who is finishing his master's of fine arts degree in vocal performance at the University of Michigan.

Erick Anderson, Samuel Buti, and Adam Del Conte, who performed in Shakespeare, have the respective roles of the Beast, Lumiere the candlestick, and Cogsworth the clock.

Amber Nicole Patrick, who played the title role in Lady Day, plays Babette, the coquettish feather-duster.

Rounding out the main roles are Matthew Feck as Maurice, Boe Wank as Gaston's lackey Le Fou, and January Blank and Brady Miller as Mrs. Potts and Chip, the teapot and teacup.

The three main elements in successfully producing such a complex show, Hayes said, are having a good cast, knowing the strengths and limitations of the people and the stage, and having a smooth flow in the action, especially the scene changes.

"It's a big challenge," he said, "but I think we're there."

The University of Findlay's SummerStock presents "Beauty and the Beast" at 8 p.m. July 26-28, 2 and 8 p.m. July 29, and 6 p.m. July 30 in the John and Hester Powell Grimm Theatre in the Egner Center for the Performing Arts, 1000 North Main St., Findlay. Tickets are $15. Information: 419-434-5335.

Continuing its theme of Celebrating America, the Huron Playhouse is preparing the whimsical comedy Harvey for its debut Tuesday.

Mary Chase's Pulitzer Prize-winning play, made famous by the movie starring Jimmy Stewart, continues to entertain with its eccentric characters and embarrassing situations.

Steve Copps of Syracuse plays Elwood P. Dowd, whose best friend is a 6-foot-tall rabbit, invisible to everyone but him.

Generally exasperated by Elwood, his social-climbing sister, Veta Louise Simmons (Heather Williams of Grand Forks, N.D.), and niece, Myrtle Mae (Britney Koser of Huron), are mortified when the family eccentric introduces the rabbit to the wealthy Mrs. Chauvenet (Kandis Wean of Dayton), and they scheme to hide him away in a sanitarium.

Also in the cast are Allison Bishop, Eric Anderson, Adam Thatcher, Jim Williams, Jessica Drew, Will Hutcheson, and Jordan Shear. Ronald Ruble directs.

●Bye, Bye Birdie is scheduled at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday and July 27, a production of the Perrysburg Summer Youth Theatre program. Directed by Rick Hagg, the show stars Alec Gaston as Conrad Birdie, Andy Sweeney as Albert Peterson, and Samantha Kirsch as Rose Alvarez. Kerri Wilde is the choreographer, and music is provided by jazz pianist Eric Dickey, bass guitarist Irv Hughes, and drummer Wil Kinsey. Performances are in the auditorium of Perrysburg Junior High School, 550 East South Boundary. Tickets are $5. Information: 419-873-2787.

●The Amil Tellers of Dramatics opens The Sound of Music tomorrow in the Encore Theatre in Lima. Directed by Memory Wilson, Shawn Stevens, and Harold Poppe, the cast is headed by Tara Fried as Maria and Ted Hertenstein as Captain Von Trapp. Performances are at 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday through July 30 in the theater at 991 North Shore Dr., Lima. Tickets are $12 for adults, $10 for seniors, and $7 for youths. Information: 800-944-1441.

Contact Nanciann Cherry at: ncherry@theblade.com

or 419-724-6130.



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