It’s a tale as old as time. But that’s no reason not to come out and support the Logansport Junior Civic Theater (JCT) this weekend as they take the stage to perform their latest musical.
Where else will you find 75 kids twirling in 18th century villager garb? A gloomy castle wrapped in thorny vines? Houseware that cheerfully welcomes you with a song?
You can’t say no to “Beauty and the Beast.”
Chris Pearcy, a Logansport teacher, is returning to co-direct alongside Dan McDonald, a Pioneer teacher. It will be his first show directed in five years. He couldn’t pass up one more chance to work with the eldest members of the cast who he has watched perform since they were children.
Community, it turns out, is one of the biggest benefits of being involved with the Junior Civic Theater.
“I don’t know that I have laughed this much during a rehearsal,” Pearcy said. “They are hilarious. They bounce off of each other so well.”
Pearcy said many of the cast members have been working together since early elementary. That familiarity created an atmosphere onstage that was full of chemistry.
“They know how to be funny together,” Pearcy said. “They know how to be serious together. And they lean into that very well.”
The friendships that have developed over the years mean more than just stage presence. McDonald said the performers will come out and support their cast mates during school plays.
“I think one of the greatest things about JCT is all of the schools are represented,” McDonald said. “It’s amazing to bring all of these kids together and the relationships that they develop are amazing. The development of those relationships is the true asset of JCT.”
“It creates a venue where they can talk to kids from other schools that they otherwise wouldn’t get the opportunity to talk to,” Pearcy added. “They have some very long friendships.”
“And you’ll see that on stage,” McDonald said. “The way these kids work together–they know each other. They understand their emotions.”
Maggie Fincher earned the role many young kids dream of as the book-loving Belle. She brings a self-assertive confidence to the stage that plays well against the bombastic insistence of her suiter Gaston and the brooding demands of the Beast.
Fincher, a recent Logansport High School graduate who will attend Purdue in the fall to study brain and behavioral science, has made many friends with her cast mates throughout the years as a JCT performer. Her ties to the cast and community run so deep she even babysat for some of the youngest members.
“This is one of my favorite casts to work with,” she said. “I have connections with the kids. I have connections with the leads. We have been working together for so long. It’s been great.”
Fincher echoed the sentiments of the directors, saying that being part of the JCT has helped shape friendships across the county rather than merely with her peers at Logansport.
“I met Austin Brooke, who plays Lumiere, and he is one of my closest friends,” said Fincher. “We have been friends going on five, six, seven years now. We met in Junior Civic Theater. If we had never done this then I wouldn’t have met one of my best friends.”
Brooke is just one of Fincher’s many talented co-stars. As the French candelabra, he brings heart and soul into the Beast’s otherwise gloomy castle. He’s the literal light in the darkness, and Brooke equals the character’s over the top French accent with facial expressions that read loud and clear across the McHale Performing Arts Center. But it’s his subtle movements undercutting his bravado that add humor and depth to the character, such as a slight tremble when confronted by the Beast.
Brooke’s tag-team partner, Liam Gay, who plays the stuffy worry wart clock, Cogsworth, is the perfect foil for Brooke. They play off each other seamlessly. Layla Powell, as the Wardrobe, brings energy that motivates the captive Belle to do more than sulk in her castle room. And Dillon Odom lurks across the stage as the Beast, his anger a sharp contrast to the hope that still remains in the castle’s staff. Sarah Pawlowski, while just a dancer performing various roles, radiates enthusiasm every time she steps on stage.
Finley Gay’s Gaston commands the audience’s attention. He embraces the role of the brutish buffoon with a Steve Martin flare (think “Little Shop of Horrors”). The young man reminds the audience that acting is more than just memorizing lines. His every move is practiced with no wasted gestures. He’s so obnoxious and unaware of everything beyond his physical perfection you can’t help but come to love the character.
Emily Brooke, a former member of the JCT who is a senior studying musical education at Ball State, is back with the program as a choreographer. She still feels the community aspect that existed while she was performing.
“There is such a sense of community in JCT and it does bring people together,” she said, noting friendships she made along the way thanks to her involvement. “I still have lifelong friends from when I was in junior high but it was a really good opportunity for kids across the community and it definitely brings us together.”
She said it meant a lot to be able to come back and remain a part of the JCT.
“Performing has always been a part of my life,” she said. “It’s really cool to come back and see these kids on stage because I stood on that stage. And this is what I want to do for the rest of my life. I’m going to Ball State and studying music education. I want to do choir and teach for the rest of my life.”
“Beauty and the Beast” runs Friday, July 29 at 7 p.m., Saturday, July 30 at 7 p.m. and Sunday, July 31 at 2:30 p.m. Tickets are $12 for adults and children and $10 for seniors. Children under three may enter for free. Performances take place at the McHale Performing Arts Center, 1 Berry Ln.
Flowers, candy and water will be available for purchase at the shows, as will light up rose wands for $5.
Raffle tickets for a kids’ themed gift basket and a date night basket may be purchased for $1 each or five for $6 dollars.
Fincher hopes everyone will come out and support the community within the community.
“People should see this show because of how amazing the cast is,” Fincher said. “I kid you not, these are some of the most talented people I’ve ever met.”