'Beauty and the Beast'

Not only does Ashland High School Performing Arts maintain a high standard in its musical productions, it also undertakes diverse challenges &

shows ranging from "Mame" and "The Music Man" to "Anything Goes" and "Guys and Dolls" &

with tireless zest. There's little doubt that producer Betsy Bishop is the driving force.

Last November, AHS really got its teeth into "Little Shop of Horrors." On Wednesday in its Mountain Theatre it launched the stage version of Disney's Oscar-honored animated movie, "Beauty and the Beast" (1991). the way, it is the first production of the play in the Rogue Valley.

This fairy tale, often performed in Britain as a pantomime, surfaced first in Europe in the 16th century and was published in a collection of fairy tales by French poet Charles Perrault entitled "Tales of Mother Goose"(1697). In 1946, Jean Cocteau, French poet, novelist, critic and playwright was acclaimed for his masterly film direction in "La Belle et Le Bete." So much for background.

The musical opened on Broadway in 1994 and closed on July 29, 2007, after 5,464 regular performances and 46 previews. The book was by Linda Woolverton, with additional songs by Alan Menken and lyricist Tim Rice.

So, while songs from the original movie are retained, especially the show stopping "Be Our Guest," there are fresh pleasures in "No Matter What," "Human Again," "If I Can't Love Her," and "A Change in Me." Sadly, Howard Ashman, Menken's partner, who had written the movie lyrics, died suddenly. Hence the appearance of Tim Rice.

In the appealing story, Belle (Ari Susu-Mago), to save her father offers herself as prisoner to the fearsome Beast (Jeffrey Star) in his forbidding castle. In time, her love for him transforms him into a handsome prince. She finds out that people are not always what they seem to be.

Some of the characters are half-human, half-household items such as Mrs. Potts (Abby Dash), a teapot; Lumiere (Charlie Bass), a candelabra; and Cogsworth (Forrest Wells), a clock. Other featured actors include Thomas Wood (Gaston), Josh Houghton (LeFou), Savannah Julian (Mme. De La Grande Bouche or Big Mouth!), Tucker Reed (Babette), Daniel Burt (Maurice), and Ryan Mills (Chip). Other members of the cast of 36 play multiple roles as villagers and enchanted folks.

Brian Hostetler is the director, with choreography by Liisa Ivary and Holly Johnson conducting the orchestra. Rosetta Shaw is the stage manager, assisted by Rebecca Perper and Neil Peterson.

Performances are at 7.30 p.m. on March 6, 7, 8 and 12, 13, 14, 15, with 2 p.m. Sunday matinee on March 9 and 16. Special prices pertain for the Wednesday evening performance on March 12, namely, all ages: advance tickets $10 ($12 at door). For Thursday through Sunday, advance tickets are $15 ($17 at door), under 12 children/seniors over 60: Advance $10 ($12 at door).

Tickets are available at AHS Main Office; Paddington Station, Tree House Books; Music Coop, and all Ashland elementary schools. For information, call 482-8771Ext. 260.

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