Beauty and the Beast opens Thursday night at Leon High School with a preview show followed by a two-weekend run.

“Hi, I’m Keen Williams. I’m playing Lumiere, and I also double as the dance captain for the show.” Williams, a rising senior, stops to chat between run-throughs. Audiences will be treated to his belting voice at every show. He plans to major in vocal performance in college.

Williams is the only lead character not double cast, which means he doesn’t share the role with anyone. He says the cast of 47 has spent much of the summer break indoors.

We rehearse for about four weeks,” Williams says. “Then we go into our tech week, which is where we run the show with full lights, full makeup, full costumes and everything. Then we will run for two weekends.”

Rising senior Noah Ruis, one of the actors playing The Beast, also wants to pursue something related to the arts. “I was definitely surprised in a good way when I got the role,” says Ruis, who’s grateful for normal rehearsals. “This feels like we’re back in the process. I remember Anastasia last year. It was weird starting out because there were masks. But as the production went on and COVID was kind of gradually not being as big of an issue, performances felt normal.”

The annual summer show by Leon Performing Arts includes students from around the district. This year, there’s a new director.

Robert Stuart can often be found onstage in community theatre productions. He taught drama and musical theatre at several schools in town. Now he’s directing a show that he thinks will resonate with multiple generations. After all, it’s been over 30 years since Disney brought us Beauty and the Beast.

“That’s what’s exciting about it because you can bring your children, and the parents can enjoy it, and the grandparents can enjoy it,” Stuart says, “that bit of nostalgia that they remember when it first came out as an animated picture.”

Stuart made some tweaks to the show to acknowledge current events. He boosted the role of the Enchantress, who puts a curse on the prince and turns him into The Beast.

I feel that this is one of the only musicals or Disney shows where the heroine, the female character, is actually changing the male character. In most of these shows it’s the male who comes in and sweeps the girl off her feet,” Stuart says. “In this show, The Beast changes. But the only way he can change is because of Belle and ultimately because of the Enchantress. So, it’s really a woman powerful show.”

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Gina Jordan

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WFSU Public Media

Indya Lincicome (left, Belle) and Keen Williams (Lumiere) rehearse on the Leon High School auditorium stage in late June.

The roles of the Enchantress and Belle are double cast between Indya Lincicome, a new graduate, and Mills Schaefer, a rising senior. When one is playing Belle, the other is the Enchantress. Both want to pursue careers in performing arts. Both were eager to praise the rest of the cast as well as the crew, many of whom are students.

“A show wouldn’t be a show without the ensemble, and our ensemble is amazing. They all work so hard to make sure everything looks good, and I love all of them honestly,” says Schaeffer.

“We would not have a show without tech, and they’re absolutely amazing to help the show come together, as well as the production team. They are great,” Lancicome adds. “I’m grateful to be a part of something so amazing.”

Since they gushed over everyone else, here’s a snippet of each Belle singing – Schaeffer first, followed by Lincicome.

Beauty and the Beast runs this weekend and next. Click here for dates, showtimes, and tickets.

Students around town are also performing in other productions. Click here for information about Young Actors Theatre’s production of The Addams Family opening later this month, and click here for details about summer performance camps at Making Light Productions.

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