Casting call issued for Beauty and the Beast

A song as old as rhyme is about to be sung at the Prince George Playhouse.

Musical theatre performers of the city can join the chorus and some even take centre stage.

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Here is the story about to be told. See if it rings familiar.

A naive but intelligent youth stumbles into a misadventure of imprisonment and abuse, only to win freedom by using reason, education, compassion and patience.

That's a more complex summary than the surface description: disfigured and tormented nobleman kidnaps a gorgeous, well-educated young woman in a desperate attempt to break a curse, and despite the circumstances they fall in love by learning to let their best selves shine through hard times.

Sound interesting? Sound like a fable from the days of old? Sound like a tale as old as time?

Disney's Beauty and the Beast will be the summer production by Prince George producer-director Judy Russell.

It’s not the first time this production has been seen in Prince George, with past performances by Excalibur Theatre Arts and a couple of high schools, but it was a recent Vancouver production that caught Russell’s attention when she and a gaggle of her young dance students saw it together.

"There were several factors for why I picked this production," Russell said.

"One of the big ones was seeing the enraptured faces of these young performers when we watched it done in Vancouver. They were enthralled and excited. And it was a bit surprising for me, but so was I, and I went in not expecting that I would love it. I loved it."

Knowing a show is a winner with audiences can only be part of the considerations of an impresario, however. A Stradivarious violin is a work of genius, but in the hands of a gold-gloves boxer or an Assassin's Creed champion it is probably not going to be a divine acoustic triumph.

"Part of choosing Beauty and the Beast - it is a huge production commitment, it can't be taken lightly - was knowing without a doubt that we have in Prince George some exceptionally talented people who can handle these roles," said Russell. "In fact, there are going to be a lot of hard choices. It is a very demanding production and that comes right from audiences who will demand that there be no compromises in the lead performers. Well, Prince George can handle those demands. We have people who are trained, experienced, some have been away and come back, and they are proven. I know we will have a Belle and a Beast we can put on any stage anywhere."

Finding the talent for any community theatre production involves calling on the public for the hidden gems. For anyone who feels the urge for the stage, with abilities to sing the songs and be taught the choreography, Russell wants to see your stuff.

Open auditions are being held at the Prince George Playhouse this Sunday. The first session runs 1-2:45 p.m. and the second from 3-5 p.m.

"It is first-come, first-serve," Russell said.

"You'll be asked for 16 bars of your best tune, and be prepared to move a little bit as we try out some simple choreography."

There will be two other audition sessions - March 29 and 30 - by appointment only.

Set up times on those days by emailing your inquiry to judyrusselpresents@gmail.com.

All the auditions discussed so far pertain to those aged 16 and older.

Children and younger youth will also be cast in the show, but those audition sessions will be revealed at a later date.

The production has already attracted an early support sponsor in the form of Canadian Tire. More sponsors are invited to contact Russell.

A special early-bird ticket sale will be held for 10 days only at discounted rates. That purchase window starts March 18. Watch the Central Interior Tickets website to access that cheaper rate as of that date.

Russell is enjoying the early preparations for this show because of the story's metaphors. On the face of it, this is a romance. Deeper in, it becomes a story about societies and individuals alike making choices about what enemies look like, what fear does, and how those can be turned into forces of good with the right willpower and a dedication to education.

"It is the tale as old as time, but that is more than just a true love story," Russell said. "Beauty and the Beast gives people hope that people can confront big crises and big fears, those will be encountered in life, but goodness and knowledge break through that and we can arrive at wonderful results for ourselves if we confront the beasts in the world. Love can grow from anywhere as long as you allow it, and make yourself vulnerable to feel love even when you've been told that something is scary or dangerous."

Video auditions may be submitted

as well and callbacks will be made by

April 4. Rehearsals will begin immediately after finalization of the cast.

The play will be performed for 15 shows from July 11-27.

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