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Preview: "Beauty and the Beast" in Potsdam

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The stage version of Disney's Beauty and the Beast opens next Tuesday night at SUNY Potsdam. Dress rehearsals for the show are underway this weekend. Todd Moe checks on the production with director Chad Larabee, who says the show includes dozens of local actors and musicians.

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Todd Moe
Morning Host and Producer

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Chad Larabee directed this production of the popular Disney film. He said, “I think it was important to our design team that we honor the moments of the film that people remember and love, while at the same point translating it for the stage. So we honor, I believe, the best moments of the animated film, and then we deviate from there and tell the story in a new and a fresh way.”

Larabee says that he’s confident that audiences will see a production of Beauty and the Beast that has never been seen anywhere in the world before. There are close to 200 costumes in the show, and the set nearly touches the back wall of the theater. “It’s a very large and very intricate set, and overall, the entire production is one of the larger ones that has been produced in this theater for some time, so it’s ambitious,” said Larabee.

The cast is comprised of dozens of local actors and community members. “The local actors have really stepped up. We’ve been really pleased with the work that they’ve done and with just how well they fit with our professional actors,” said Larabee. Two of the actors are professionals from New York City; they will play the Beast and Gaston.

“I think part of what’s exciting about Beauty and the Beast is we’re in an era where people are famous for their looks or for just being famous. And we’ve put such a huge value on physical beauty and on notoriety, and I think this show really speaks to what really matters is what’s inside a person,” said Larabee. “You have a character like Belle who is an outcast in her community, and who runs off and happens to find love in a very unexpected way with somebody who is very physically unattractive and scary. So I think it’s a nice message that what truly matters isn’t what we can see but what we can feel and sense from a person from their inside.”

Larabee says that this is the show’s most poignant memory, and that he sees the inclusion of this type of message as one of Disney’s strengths. He said, “They have that unique ability, I think, to make meaningful statements in very soft and gentle ways.”

One of the aspects of this production that Larabee is especially proud of is the set. “We decided to approach the show from a perspective of art nouveau, which has very strong ties with nature. Since Belle rebels against the town that she lives in, she seems to find a lot of solace in the forest.”

The Beast’s castle is designed with a very art nouveau look of vines and trees and such that make the walls, according to Larabee. Special lighting allows the walls to change colors. “There’s a lot of unexpected surprises within. Parts of the set can roll out, seemingly from nowhere, and these other moments where castle walls can suddenly change colors. So there’s some fun surprises, and many more, I should say, too throughout the entire process.”

The cast has been rehearsing for about six weeks. The local cast rehearsed with the vocal director and choreographer for the first three weeks, and then Larabee arrived with the two professional actors. Larabee says that it is a big cast, with 23 actors, a 20-person orchestra and a crew of close to 50.

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