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Belle and the Beast take the stage this month at the Averitt
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Almost 30 young local actors and actresses bring the classic fairytale about love and learning to be loved to the Emma Kelly Theater when they perform Disney’s "Beauty and the Beast Jr." on March 14-16. 

Adapted from the original Broadway production that ran for over 13 years that was nominated for nine Tony Awards, and the Academy Award-winning 1991 animated musical film,  "Beauty and the Beast Jr." is a fantastic story of transformation and tolerance. 

The play is brought to the Jan Brown Anderson stage by BBWH Insurors, Georgia Technologies and Georgia Southern University’s Theatre and Performance. The magical show features some of the most popular songs ever written by Alan Menken and the late Howard Ashman, along with new songs by Menken and Tim Rice. Audiences can sing along with "Be Our Guest," "Beauty and the Beast," "Something There" and "Belle."

Tickets are $16 ($14 for Averitt members), $10 for students and $8 for youth and can be purchased at the Averitt Center Main Gallery, by calling (912) 212-2787 or online at www.averittcenterforthearts.org. 

Based on the classic French fairy tale by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont, "Beauty and the Beast" tells the story of a cold-blooded prince who has been magically transformed into an unsightly creature as punishment for his selfish ways. 

To revert to his true human form, the Beast must first learn to love a bright, beautiful young woman whom he has imprisoned in his enchanted castle before it is too late. If the Beast can learn to love and be loved, the curse will end and he will be transformed to his former self. But, if the Beast does not learn his lesson before the last leaf of the rose under glass falls, he and his household will be doomed for all eternity.

Originally directed by Robert Jess Roth and produced by Disney Theatrical Productions from the book written by Linda Woolverton, the Averitt rendition is directed by Youth Theater instructor Ashley Morgan with musical direction by Averitt artistic associate Robert Cottle.

Ally Keene is the beautiful Belle, a kind-hearted and confident farm girl who dreams of true love. She takes care of her aging and protective father Maurice, who is played by Averitt youth theater veteran Kenzie Cannady. But she is relentlessly pursued by the handsome yet pompous and dimwitted Gaston, played by another youth theater veteran Kian DeVine. Keene is a home-schooled eighth grader, Cannady is a sophomore at Statesboro High School and DeVine is a junior at Statesboro STEAM.

Maurice and Belle meet the Beast (Jack Blackmon), who has been turned into a hideous creature by an enchantress (Ceci Smith), and his staff, all of whom have been turned into castle furniture. There’s Cogsworth (Aidan Sowell), Lumiere (Xavier Deckard), Mrs. Potts (Emily Lloyd) and Chip (Anna Grace Rollins). Along with Belle, they must help the Beast change his heart before all of them are changed forever. 

Blackmon and Deckard are sixth graders at William James Middle, Smith is a freshman at SHS, Sowell is a seventh grader at Screven County Middle, Lloyd is a freshman at Jenkins County High and Rollins is a second grader at Trinity Christian School. 

Other cast members include Lefou (Ernesto Molina), Madame De La Grande Bouche (Rylee Martindale-Rushing), Babette (Claire Kennedy), Silly Girl 1, 2, 3 (Madison Harvey, Brenna Lloyd, Maddy Grace Strickland), Monsieur D’Arque (Rowan Henry) and Bookkeeper (Sosi Sobaje). Molina is a senior at SHS, Martindale-Rushing is a sixth grader at WJMS, Kennedy is a home-schooled fifth grader, Harvey is a sixth grader at WJMS, Lloyd is a fifth grader at Jenkins County Elementary, Strickland is a fourth grader at BES, Henry is a fifth grader at Sallie Zetterower and Sobaje is a home-schooled fifth grader.

The three Narrators (Tate Miller, Em Harvey and Mackenzie Harvey) keep the story moving. Miller is a homeschooled eighth grader, Em Harvey is a junior at SHS and Mackenzie Harvey is a freshman at SHS.

Villagers/flatware/wolves are Sobaje, Smith, Savannah Gordon (a third grader at BES), Sara Brooke Bradley (a second grader at JPB), Hannah Burke (a fourth grader at Pinewood Christian), Peyton Chapman (a second grader at JPB), Merrin Chapman (a kindergartener at JPB), Dominick Henry (a first grader at SZ) and Tom Mortimore (a seventh grader at Southeast Bulloch Middle).

Filled with spectacular costume and set opportunities, great humor and wonderful songs, the Averitt Center’s production of Disney’s "Beauty and the Beast Jr." should be as fantastically fun as this past summer’s Disney’s "Little Mermaid."