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Kenyon-Wanamingo Theatre will host five performances of “The Beauty and the Beast this weekend and next. Tickets are strongly recommended to be purchased online at . (Michelle Vlasak/southernminn.com)

Though practices just began two months ago, numerous cast members of Kenyon-Wanamingo Theatre’s spring production, like junior Arin Kyllo, have been anticipating Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” for over a year.

Calling this one of their “biggest and best shows yet,” directors and cast members say they are even more enthused for the community to see live performances Friday, May 7 and Saturdays and Sundays May 8-16, especially since it has been over a year since a live performance has taken place.

Considered a classic musical, “ Beauty and the Beast,” is a collaborative effort between over 70 students in grades five through 12 and four directors: High School Play Director Randy Hockinson, Choir Director Stephanie Schumacher and Middle School Play Directors Blair Reynolds and Laura McAnally.

Kyllo, who plays the motherly character of Mrs. Potts (a cook who is becoming a teapot) said it will be a fun show for both the audience and cast members.

“We’ve been preparing for so long, I think it’s going to be so fun to have something we can finally include the community on,” Kyllo added.

Despite all of the challenges the pandemic has created in terms of mask wearing and social distancing during play practice, Kyllo said she has learned to be patient and be more aware of what she can/cannot control.

Needing many voices and dancers to tell this type of story, cast members indicate teamwork played a big role in the production

Daniel Van Epps, a senior who plays Maurice (an inventor and Belle’s father), said, “It takes a lot of teamwork to put on a production like this. We worked really hard and it’s a really fun production. It would make all of our days for people to come see it.”

Senior Clay Stevenson, too, agreed that it will be a “very” exciting experience for those who decide to come and watch the play.

“This has been in the making since February, the set is great and we’ve worked so hard to put this all together and coordinate with the middle schoolers,” Stevenson said. “I’m really proud to be able to do this with everybody else, the cast and the crew.”

Though Stevenson says his character, Gaston (a pompous and dim-witted ladies man) is the complete opposite of his true personality, now that he has worked with the character for so long, it’s easier to portray the jerk-like character.

Of “Beauty and the Beast” story, Stevenson said his main takeaway is not to judge a book by its cover and to remember that beauty is from within, not just on the outside.

Beaming with pride

Katie Van Epps, a senior playing Belle (a smart, plucky young woman from a provincial town), said playing the character has always been her dream.

“My toddler/child self is beaming right now,” Van Epps said with proud smile.

Van Epps said she feels the live performances will be a great way for people to get integrated back in the community, as they have been missing from the equation for quite some time due to the pandemic. In spite of the regulations they’ve had to go through, Van Epps said they’ve put a lot of time and effort into it.

Elliot Olson, a junior who plays the misunderstood character of the Beast, (the master of the castle who used to be a prince), said he gets into his character by thinking about what the Beast is going through and how he would personally feel in the Beasts’ shoes. In this case, Olson said he’d also be upset if he was turned into a hideous monster.

“I’ve done a lot of shows before, but this show is definitely a lot harder than past shows in the amount of people in it and the group songs,” Olson said. “I’m looking forward to performing in front of audience.”

Though his first year taking part in the play, sixth grader Gunner Carlstrom (townsperson, a mobster and tavern character) said he is “very” excited to perform live and already anticipates performing in upcoming shows throughout the remainder of his school years. Finding it hard to narrow down his favorite parts of participating in the play, Carlstrom said he enjoys being with all of the “amazing” cast/crew members and directors.

Sixth grader Sydney Ehrich and fifth grader Mariah Pearson, too, are experiencing their first time in play, but working backstage and helping paint props.

Ehrich, who was eager to participate in the play (later canceled) last year, jumped at the opportunity to help this year, especially since she enjoys painting. After reading a book in Jena LeTourneau’s fourth grade class, “Drama” by Raina Telgemeier, about a girl who also was helping backstage during a play, Pearson said she was inspired to join this year’s production.

Ehrich encouraged everyone to come see the show.

“It’s going to be beautiful, funny and just a great show,” she added.

Reach reporter Michelle Vlasak at 507-333-3128 or follow her on Twitter @apgmichelle. ©Copyright 2020 APG Media of Southern Minnesota. All rights reserved.

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