North and south of the Grand Strand, new community theater plays open this weekend, one with a with a prince-turned-beast and a girl named Belle, and the other with a character dubbed “Bud the Stud.”
Brunswick Little Theatre will bring the “Beauty and the Beast” to Brunswick Community College Odell Williamson Auditorium in Supply, N.C., for two weekends through Aug. 4, and the Swamp Fox Players will have “Sex Please, We’re Sixty” at the Strand Theater in Georgetown for three weekends through Aug. 11.
Ensemble’s large role
Debbie Skillman is directing the Disney musical, which is based on the movie from 1991, with its title track recorded originally by Peabo Bryson and Regina Belle.
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She called “Beauty and the Beast” a challenge, but fun.
“It’s a really big show to do,” Skillman said, “and it’s a challenge because of the number of musical numbers that involve the big ensemble.
“It’s an unusual musical in that instead of commenting on the action, they are actually helping move the story forward. So they are on stage a lot.”
Skillman said in many musicals, the ensemble members make only a couple of appearances, not spending as much time on stage as the group does in “Beauty and the Beast.”
“They are involved in the really big, big numbers that last for many minutes,” she said.
In the opening song, “Belle,” the ensemble “sets up the beginning of the story and how Belle is different from everyone else, Skillman said, then the group appears in the tavern and in town.
“Then they are all the enchanted objects in ‘Be Our Guest,’ which is a huge number in act one,” Skillman said.
She said mounting this production, which Disney has taken on tour with big budgets, means getting creative as local theater companies do “to make things happen.”
Skillman said this show reflects “very much a team effort,” with other major parts coordinated by such hands as the choreographer and designers for music and special effects.
The dance designer, Bev Veenker, called “Beauty and the Beast” so beautiful with such a variety of music, with humor woven into the choreography.
“Be Our Guest,” for instance, boasts various types of dance steps, she said, with “a little bit of” cancan, tango and soft shoe each.
“Then of course,” Veenker said quoting Cogsworth reacting to his sight of all the dancing in a room: “No, not the kick line.”
Fast pace for play
A farce about three women who stay at a bed-and-breakfast and deal with two inquisitive men will fill the stage in Georgetown’s historic theater. Inge Ebert, director of “Sex Please, We’re Sixty!” said she likes leading “these kind of crazy plays.”
She said the troupe has performed several other plays by the authors, Michael Parker and Susan Parker, and that the “very, very fast pace” of “Sex Please” suits her.
“Timing is everything for this play,” said Ebert, a German native who grew up enjoying British comedy, including skits by the late Benny Hill.
Speaking earlier this week, she credited the cast for its professional delivery and for being “out of the book” in the rehearsal process.
Having directed about a dozen productions, Ebert said when she first reads a play for Swamp Fox Players’ consideration, “even then, I start to visualize how it would look on stage.”
“Actually,” she said, “this play was presented to me by one of the actresses in the play.”
That referral came from a member of one of two real-life couples in “Sex Please.”
Ebert said the play does not contain any foul language, although there’s innuendo, but nothing that children “haven’t seen on TV.”
She thought about lessons from her mentor, Jack Thompson, whose resume includes directing work on Broadway and co-authoring the book “Once Upon A Mattress,” a play that later starred Carol Burnett.
“Everything I learned, I learned from him,” Ebert said, remembering one stumbling block she encountered in directing a play, prompting a call to him for advice.
“He looked at it and said, ‘Why don’t you do it this way?’ ” she said. “It was so simple; he knew it immediately.”
Funny plays, or “a good murder mystery that has some humor in it,” retain their appeal to Ebert.
“To me, it’s really important,” she said. “We don’t laugh enough.”
Ebert also thinks despite the play’s title and age reference, “we’ll see people younger than 60” in the audience.
“This is certainly not just for old folks,” she said. “this is just a funny, funny play.”