The summer winds down with one of the world’s most-loved Broadway shows being staged in Joliet.
The Joliet Drama Guild presents Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” at 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays July 29-Aug. 7 at the Billie Limacher Bicentennial Park Theatre in Joliet.
Based on the Academy Award-winning animated feature, the stage version includes songs by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman, along with new songs by Menken and Tim Rice.
“Beauty and the Beast” is the story of an arrogant young prince who, along with his castle’s servants, falls under the spell of a wicked enchantress. She turns him into the hideous Beast until he learns to love and be loved in return. Belle is the brave village girl who shows up at the Beast’s castle after he imprisons her father.
The cast of 40 is directed by Tyler McMahon of Bradley. This is the fourth time he’s been involved with the show and the fourth show he’s directed for the Joliet Drama Guild. He played LeFou the first time and the Beast the second and third times.
“There’s generally a good arc for most of the characters,” he said. “One thing we definitely notice as the show progresses is that the Beast starts to act more like a genuine human while Gaston starts to act more like a monster to get what he wants.”
John Kladis of Palos Hills stars as the Beast. It’s his first show with the Joliet Drama Guild. When he heard they were staging “Beauty and the Beast,” he jumped at the chance to audition for a show that’s been on his bucket list.
He’s trying to imbibe the Beast with the human qualities he thinks are hidden inside.
“I really like the Beast. People think the Beast is someone who’s grumpy the entire time but I think there’s so much of an emotional arc that goes with him,” he said. “He’s really just a kid who doesn’t know how to handle his emotions. He’s not emotionally matured and he got put in this really bad situation. Being able to display that on stage is really a challenge and I enjoy it. I like roles that are challenging on an emotional level and this has been a lot of fun.”
Christina Pacini of Orland Park stars as Belle. It’s her first show with Joliet Drama Guild also and she’s thrilled she landed her “dream role” of Belle.
“It’s been wonderful diving into this character especially because I feel like she’s such a strong female character and example for a lot of women today and it’s been an honor to try to do her justice,” she said.
A highlight of the show for her has been the friendships she’s built among the cast, she said.
“I know this production means a lot to a lot of the people in the cast,” she said. “It’s been wonderful seeing something that means so much to so many people come to life onstage.”
She knows that people have grown up with the story and treasure the iconic songs and characters and wants to do the role justice, she said. There is such a joy to bringing it to life onstage, she said.
“Between the costumes and bringing these objects to life … is something so interesting. I think audiences will not only enjoy the story but how the magic of Disney is brought to the stage.”
You don’t need to have seen the Disney story to appreciate the musical, McMahon said.
“It’s an age-old story,” he said. “They added in the aspects of the songs and the idea of the castles’ residents being turned into objects that sort of represented what they did in the castle.”
It’s the idea of someone having to learn how to be a good person with the help of another good person.
“And you can’t judge appearances. He looks like this horrible monster but he’s really a good person inside, whereas you have the character of Gaston who would be considered aesthetically pleasing — tall, muscular, square-jawed, manly — and he’s truly an awful person inside.”
McMahon thinks audiences will enjoy the music — the musical is filled with gorgeous songs like “No Matter What,” “Be Our Guest,” “If I Can’t Love Her,” “Human Again” and “Beauty and the Beast.” And the costumes will be on point, he said.
“There’s a lot. I have a great costumer; she’s building stuff, I’m building things. Our Mrs. Potts is supposed to look like a giant teapot. Our wardrobe … is essentially a giant closet. Our cheese grater is a giant piece. It’s a very interesting, tech-heavy show.”
He thinks people will love the show, especially if they remember it coming out in during the golden renaissance of Disney in the 1990s, he said.
“This was definitely what some people would consider the masterpiece of animation,” he said. “For it to be the first, and for a long time the only, animated film to be nominated for an Oscar was a pretty big deal. I think it speaks to people. I think people can identify with the characters. You can identify with Belle. You can identify with the Beast. You ultimately enjoy seeing the bad guys get their comeuppance at the end. You feel for the characters.”
And it’s a family friendly show.
News updates from the south suburbs delivered every Monday and Wednesday
“I think it’s a super-enjoyable piece for everybody.”
‘Beauty and the Beast’
When: July 29-Aug. 7
Where: Billie Limacher Bicentennial Park Theatre, 201 W. Jefferson St., Joliet
Information: 815-715-8881; thejolietdramaguild.com
Annie Alleman is a freelance reporter for the Daily Southtown.