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Hamptons Life

Mar 6, 2018 10:52 AMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Center Stage Presents Disney's 'Beauty And The Beast' Starting Friday In Southampton

Mary Sabo and Darren Ottati as Belle and The Beast. DANE DUPUIS
Mar 6, 2018 11:13 AM

For the last production of its 10th anniversary season, the Southampton Cultural Center’s Center Stage will present a “tale as old as time”—Disney’s classic “Beauty and the Beast,” with performances beginning on Friday, March 9.

Based on the 1991 animated film, the musical ran on Broadway for 13 years and has become a favorite for community and high school theaters. However, putting the show together has proved to be an ambitious feat, said director Michael Disher.

“It is a big, big show,” said Mr. Disher, speaking to The Press a week before the production is set to premiere. He admitted that this might be the most challenging and elaborate show Center Stage has produced to date.

One of the biggest challenges, he said, was creating the elaborate costumes that are necessary for the show—one that revolves around an enchanted castle filled with characters who have been transformed into objects.

Initially, Mr. Disher, said he sought to rent the costumes—which range from a seven-piece ensemble for the candelabra Lumière, to a massive, rotund piece for the teapot Mrs. Potts—but soon found out that most of the rental houses only had sizes available for children due to the show’s popularity in schools.

“Basically, I have had to create and piece together this entire show piece by piece, character by character,” Mr. Disher said. “Every little facet of the costumes is so specific, so it became a challenge.”

Another challenge, he said, was striving to make the production unique and not an exact copy of what has been done before.

“Whenever you tackle any sort of script—particularly one that is mounted as frequently as ‘Beauty and the Beast’—I had to look at it and think, ‘Okay, what can I bring to it? How can I attack this differently,’” he said.

“What I decided to do was play up the entire romance of the piece because it truly is a romantic story. It’s not a complex story. It’s a very simple story, but if it’s played with a great amount of heart, romance and fantasy, then you can create something else and that’s what I have hopefully done with this cast.”

The musical, he explained, elaborates more on the darker aspects of the fairytale than the animated film.

“I think you kind of have to go there [with the story] because in order to get to the light you have to get through the dark,” said Mr. Disher, reflecting on the characters’ journeys.

“Gaston is a very dark character. He is a villain. And then you have the hero, the Beast, who has to go through this cathartic revelation in order to accept what is innately within him. And then of course you have the heroine who is so full of self-discovery.”

The story is superbly supplemented by a stellar score by Alan Menken and ingenious lyrics from Tim Rice and the late Howard Ashman, he said.

“It’s such a rich, lush, Broadway score.”

Mr. Disher entrusted the responsibility of handling the music to Amanda Jones, who marks “Beauty and the Beast” as her fourth production with Center Stage.

Ms. Jones said she and Mr. Disher have a wonderful rapport and have known each other since she was in high school. They even went to the movies together last year to see Disney’s live-action adaptation of “Beauty and the Beast.”

“We work really well together, which helps the shows become pretty seamless,” she said. “Working on this show in particular has been a wonderful experience.”

For the last few months, she has not only worked with the cast on the extensive libretto, but has also assembled a company of professional musicians who make up Center Stage’s largest orchestra to date to accompany each performance, the East Hampton musical director said.

“We have musicians come in from all over Long Island,” Ms. Jones said.

A live orchestra is altogether a luxury for community theaters on Long Island. Many companies are forced to use pre-recorded tracks that are played over a sound system due to budget or space constraints. However, Ms. Jones said that Center Stage strives to use live musicians whenever possible. While the space does not feature an actual pit, for “Beauty and the Beast” the orchestra will be positioned in the back of the stage.

Ms. Jones said that despite her many years of involvement in theater on the East End, she never stops being amazed by the sheer talent in the area—both on- and off-stage.

“I feel like every show I do I’m surprised again by it, but this show in particular I feel really highlights the talent we have out here on the East End,” she said.

“It’s going to be a beautiful show. Not all shows are beautiful; some are fun to watch and some are funny, musical comedies or just really entertaining. This show has all that in it, but it’s also going to be really beautiful, which I think is a testament to the actors out here and to Michael [Disher].”

“Beauty and the Beast” opens at the Southampton Cultural Center, 25 Pond Lane, Southampton Village, on Friday, March 9, and runs until Sunday, March 25. Performances are scheduled for Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays at 7 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. Tickets are $28 for the public and $15 for students and can be purchased online at scc-arts.org.

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Its an amazing show
By thomasmc (13), Southampton on Mar 10, 18 10:49 PM
The best show I have seen in a long, long time!!! I am so proud of all this great local talent. And special thanks to Michael Disher. How he pulled this all off to provide truly first rate theatre in a relatively small space is beyond me.
By baywoman (160), southampton on Mar 15, 18 7:36 PM
registration, east hampton, day care, early childhood education, junior pre-k, pre-k, toddler