Be their guest: ‘Beauty and the Beast’ debuts in Van Meter

Katherine Wade

A tale as old as time is coming to Van Meter Auditorium this weekend.

The WKU theatre and dance department will perform “Beauty and the Beast.”

“Beauty and the Beast” will be the first theatrical performance in Van Meter since its renovation. The $21.8 million renovation project added a new dressing room, green room and orchestra pit, as well as new lighting and other technology updates.

David Young, head of the theatre and dance department, said they decided to do “Beauty and the Beast” because it was a family-friendly show but also had spectacle.

“It’s got beautiful music too,” he said. “We think it’s a great fit.”

Auditions for the show took place in March, and the cast and crew have been rehearsing since a week before the semester began. Young said they had spent about 130 hours in rehearsal.

Paducah sophomore Robert Sharkey, who plays Lumiere, a candlestick with a French accent, said learning everything for the part in a short amount of time has been difficult, but he expects it to be one of the best shows the department has ever put together.

Sharkey said musical theater is his passion, and he has been acting for as long as he can remember. But this show has presented some new challenges.

“I have to do a French accent in the play too, and I’ve never done that before,” he said. “It’s one of my favorite Disney movies though, so it’s been great to be a part of.”

Louisville sophomore Anna Essex, the show’s prop master, said the production is acting as Van Meter’s grand opening.

“We want to show them what it is capable of, and so far it’s been capable of a lot,” she said.

Essex, who designs and manages the props used in the production, said there are several special effects throughout the show, including people suspended over the stage.

President Gary Ransdell said Van Meter provides all of the capacity needed for a full scale production on our campus.

“It’s a significant moment in our theatrical history at WKU,” he said.

Ransdell said he couldn’t wait to see the show this weekend.

“I have high expectations for anything our students do,” he said. “We’ve got very talented musicians and actors and technical experts in the student body and in our faculty. I think it will be a very professional performance.”

Young said Ransdell has been very supportive of the production.

“He wanted to give us a good shot at using this new space,” he said.

The new stage and new equipment may allow for special effects, but they also require a lot of work from the people behind the scenes.

Hopkinsville sophomore Luke Jean, Corbin sophomore Sterling Franklin and Sara Lohman, a senior from Clarksville, Tenn., make up the stage management team.

Lohman said their job was to be the communication between the cast and production.

“Everything that happens on stage is called by me,” she said.

Franklin said the new technology has been great.

“During one of our past shows, my headset went out three times, which is a disaster,” she said. “Now I’m hooked up to this amazing system.”

The cast is showing excitement as well.

Brandenburg junior Blake Cox, who is playing Cogsworth, said he hopes everyone in the cast keeps the energy up and helps the show stay fresh.

Bowling Green senior Josh Stinson said he has always liked “Beauty and the Beast.” He tried out for the general audition and got the part of Gaston.

“I love singing, dancing and acting,” he said. “I love entertaining people and getting them into a story.”

Young, who has directed 10 shows during his 12 years at WKU, said he enjoys working with the students in the cast and crew.

“We have a lot of laughs,” he said. “It’s nice at this point because I become sort of obsolete. It’s really their show now.”