MCHS performance of Beauty & the Beast opens on Friday

Neal Childress (left) and Iris Brown (right) will play the leads in the MCHS Theater Club’s performance of Beauty and the Beast, which opens this Friday, May 10. [PHOTO CREDIT: Jeff Reed]

LYNCHBURG — It’s Wednesday afternoon and the cast and crew of this weekend’s MCHS Theater Club’s performance of the Broadway musical version of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast are working out the kinks.

Mrs. Potts’ hand keeps slipping out of her teapot spout. They can’t quite figure out how to enter Belle’s bedroom for scenes — from the front or the back. At one point, Lumiere’s candle hand goes flying across the stage.

But these things will be worked out before the show opens on Friday at 7:30 p.m. It’s what dress rehearsals are for after all.

A final MCHS Theater Club performance?

Based on the Disney, animated feature by the same name as well as the French fairytale written by French novelist Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve, the story tells the story of the gruff, misunderstood Beast and the willful, stubborn, yet big-hearted Belle and their struggle to understand each other in an enchanted castle. The original Broadway production ran for over 13 years and was nominated for nine Tony Awards, including Best Musical.

It’s a last gasp for the 11 senior Theater Club members involved in this weekend’s performance as well as their director Brooklyn Turner. This will be Turner’s final local performance and she’s put a little skin in the game.

She donated her own money to fund some costumes and set designs. She and the MCHS Ag teacher Jacob Everett also built many of the complicated costumes for characters like Mrs. Potts, Lumiere, Cogsworth, and Chip. She also plays in the performance as part of the ensemble.

“I personally picked out all their costumes and did all their hair and makeup,” she said. “Marty Lyles made Cogsworth’s mustache and the MCHS art teacher, Mallory Garrett designed the set and kids painted them. Everyone has pitched in.”

This is the second year for Moore County High School’s newly formed Theater Club. Unfortunately, Turner will be leaving the school system at the end of the year, and its future is uncertain.

“I really hope the theater club keeps going because it’s been a beautiful thing and I’m really going to miss it,” Turner says.

A senior Beauty and her tennis-playing Beast

It will also be the last performance for senior Iris Brown, who plays Belle this weekend. Brown will graduate in May and plans to attend MTSU next fall. When we asked her about her final performance on the local stage, Brown said it was bittersweet.

“This is one of my dream roles. I’ve always wanted to play a Disney princess that little girls look up to,” she says. “This has been so much fun, and Mrs. Turner is awesome. She really puts her all into this.”

Brown’s co-star is junior Neal Childress as Beast. He hasn’t even got a full year as a theater club member under his belt and he’s already played the lead in not one but two plays. He also played the role of Scrooge in the December performance of A Christmas Carol.

The last few weeks have been hectic for Childress as he splits his time between dress rehearsal and the district playoff matches with the Raiders Tennis Team. On the day of our interview, he’d just returned from a match where he won the boys’ singles championship in TSSAA District 11A for the first time in MCHS history.

This ambitious group prepared for this weekend’s performance for 11 weeks. The cast performed their first read-through on January 8, and they’ve been rehearsing every Monday and Wednesday since then.

The cast includes Iris Brown (Belle), Neal Childress (Beast), Juan Del Pilar (Gaston), Tyler Nix (Lefou, Jenalee Deal (Maurice), Trista Klinetobe (Mrs. Potts), Simon (Lumiere), Makenzie Conn (Cogsworth), Jillian Scherff (Enchantress), Maddie Thomas (Madame De La Grande Bouche), Cassie Beddingfield (Chip), Kahara Thomas (Silly Girl), Liza Buchanan (Silly Girl), Landon Brann (Wolf), Luke Gold (Wolf), Wade Childress (Wolf), Aaliyah Lumbley (Wolf), Elizabeth Claxton (Wolf), Tyler Lumbley (Wolf), Mallory Garrett (Ensemble), and Brooklyn Turner (Ensemble).

The crew is comprised of Molly Parker (Stage Manager), Lexie Askins (Lights), Corall Adams (Sound), Jayden Farrell (Microphones), as well as Neleh Dickey, Karlee Works, Gavin Marshall, Kaycee Young, Heather Womble, Brodey Richardson.

Performances begin on Friday at 7:30 p.m. and will continue on Saturday at 2 and 7:30 p.m. All performances will take place at the LES Auditorium. According to our sources, the Friday night performance is sold out, but there are still tickets available for the two Saturday performances. •

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