The upcoming production of “Beauty and the Beast Jr.”, presented by the Coastal Repertory Kids Theater program, is a fairy tale come true to some.
Sheridan Stewart started at the Coastal Rep at age 4, even appearing in a production of “Beauty and the Beast Jr.” as a secondary character. This spring, after countless hours of rehearsals over the years, she will share the role of Belle, with Aya Naito, who has also been on the program for several years.
“It’s such an amazing experience,” Stewart said. “I used to look up to eighth graders in the program, and now being one is so cool. For those of us who have been here a little while, we have all seen ourselves grow and change.
Stewart and Naito both agreed that while one of the best parts of Belle is her songs, preparing for the role together is their favorite part.
“(Belle) is quite the character,” Naito said. “Yes, she’s a princess, but she’s more than a princess, she’s eccentric.”
Although the play was selected in conjunction with the education committee, “Beauty and the Beast” holds special significance for director Sabina Perlsweig who starred as Belle in her senior year at Half Moon Bay High. School in the 2011 production.
“It was what I consider my introduction to the love and passion of acting,” Perlsweig said. “It was a really, really special moment for me, super inspiring, and that’s when I really fell in love with acting.
“I wanted to bring the love of one of my favorite shows to a new generation of young actors,” she said.
Perlsweig added that she thinks this story is especially important as we emerge from COVID-19 and adjust to the new world we live in.
“I feel like the themes of liking people and trying to understand people who you might not have much in common with, or who you don’t necessarily get along with right away, are evident in this story,” she said. “I’m just learning to treat people with kindness even if they’re not necessarily the same to you.”
The 41 students rehearse every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, divided by age group, but as opening night approaches, the young actors also devote their weekends to preparation.
“It’s a show with a lot of different characters that really showcases the different talents and strengths that we have here in our different kids,” Perlsweig said. “Some characters do a lot of great singing, some are super comedic.
“There’s a lot of deep emotional acting, and it’s a really good way to let all of our kids shine.”
It shows when you talk to the actors.
“(Lumiere) is really fun to play because he’s super flirty and kinda funky, and he acts like a total weirdo the whole time,” Mackay Bennett said.
Zee Forrest, as Mrs. Potts, finds that she can be creative in her role.
“I love acting (Ms. Potts) because she’s motherly, but also fun,” she said. “She’s got this little spunk about her.”
“Beauty and the Beast Jr.” will open on Friday and run until May 8. For those unable to attend in person, a live stream option will be available for both Saturday performances. For more information on the production or to purchase tickets, visit coastrep.com.