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Published: Thursday, 8/23/2007

Disney World comes to Ada

Kenley Monson plays Belle and Matt Zimmerman plays the
Beast/prince in the production at Ohio Northern University. Kenley Monson plays Belle and Matt Zimmerman plays the Beast/prince in the production at Ohio Northern University.

Disney's Beauty and the Beast ended its run on Broadway on July 31 after 13 years and more than 5,400 performances, but just because it closed in New York doesn't mean it isn't still going strong.

The fairy tale comes to life tonight in Ada, Ohio, where a production at Ohio Northern University's Freed Center for the Performing Arts begins a two-week run.

"We decided to do the whole big Disney thing," said Freed managing director Catriona Macphie.

"We rented the sets and [some of the ] costumes. It's like having Disney World right here in Ada," she said.

There are two big reasons for spending the money to rent the sets, Macphie said. First, they're elaborate and hard to duplicate, and second, the Freed Center wanted to meet audience expectations, especially from the children, who will want to see on stage what they saw in the Oscar-nominated animated movie.

The various sites of the play - including the village, the Beast's castle, and Belle's home - will be on a large turntable that will revolve to suit the action, Macphie said. Lloyd Butler will conduct the large orchestra, which provides a "sumptuous" sound, she added.

The production is directed by Renee Dobson, who was the director of musical theater at ONU for nine years, leaving in 2003 to become an assistant professor of fine arts at St. Joseph's University in Philadelphia. She said she's pleased with the way the show is coming together.

"We have an excellent cast and costumer and a full orchestra. I think it should be a wonderful production," she said.

The title roles are played by seniors Kenley Monson of Powell, Ohio, and Matt Zimmerman of Sidney, Ohio. Glenn Stanton of Troy, Ohio, portrays Gaston, the egotistical lout who has determined that he will wed the beautiful Belle at all costs, and Lance Ashmore of Ada is Maurice, Belle's loving father, who inadvertently falls into the clutches of the Beast when he takes refuge from wolves.

Seeking her father, Belle finds the Beast's castle, where Maurice is being held captive, and she exchanges her life for his. The castle, she discovers, is filled with all sorts of half-human objects, such as clocks, candlesticks, and feather dusters, who become her friends but plot to have her fall in love with the Beast, thus breaking the spell that binds them to their nonhuman shapes.

Famous songs from the movie and play include "Be Our Guest," "Gaston," and "Beauty and the Beast."

The stage play, Macphie said, is faithful to the movie, with one big exception. "The Beast has a lot more solos than in the film."

"Beauty and the Beast" opens tonight in the Freed Center for the Performing Arts at Ohio Northern University in Ada. Performances are at 8 p.m. today-Saturday, Aug. 31, Sept. 1, and Sept. 3, with matinees at 2 p.m. Sunday and Sept. 2. Tickets are $15 for adults, $12 for students and seniors, and $9 for children 12 and younger. Information: 419-772-1900.

Contact Nanciann Cherry at: ncherry@theblade.com or 419-724-6130.

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