Sunset Playhouse Presents a ‘Tale As Old As Time’
By Stephanie Harte
Photo Credit: Sunset Playhouse
When tasked with bringing the beloved story of Beauty and the Beast to the Sunset Playhouse stage, Director Karl Miller knew he wanted to take a unique spin on the timeless classic. As a director, Miller dives deep into the levels of struggle, conflict and villainy apparent in the show, as opposed to just focusing on the sweetness of the Disney story.
“I don’t just want to do Beauty and the Beast because it’s Beauty and the Beast,” Miller explained. “I want to bring a lush look to it. I want to capture the craziness of it, but also want the heart of the story to come out.”
Miller credits his extremely talented cast with helping to bring his vision to life. Some of the lead actors include Stephanie Staszak as Belle, Keith Smith as the Beast/Prince, Tim Albrechtson as Gaston, Jim Donaldson as Lefou, Tom Marks as Maurice, Eric Welch as Lumiere, Corey Richards as Cogsworth, and Marcee Doherty-Elst as Mrs. Potts.
“My main principal characters are really strong, which brings a great energy to the rehearsals and to the stage,” Miller said. “I also have a really great ensemble playing four or five characters each. As a director I can shape things and give ideas, but it’s really the actors who bring the show to life.”
Along with directing the show, Miller serves as the choreographer. He has been choreographing professionally for almost 30 years and has worked with a variety of organizations including Skylight Music Theatre, In Tandem Theatre and First Stage Children’s Theater. Nancy Visintainer-Armstrong, artistic director at Sunset Playhouse, said having Miller as both the director and choreographer has helped to create an even more unified production.
“I’m a choreographer as well so I’m really looking forward to seeing the dance numbers and seeing people experience the magic of the show,” Visintainer-Armstrong said.
Miller explained that as a choreographer he finds his inspiration by concentrating on the score and what each instrument is saying as opposed to just focusing on the lyrics. “This show is very easy to choreograph because the numbers really speak for themselves,” Miller shared.
Along with the main stage Beauty and the Beast, the Sunset School for the Arts will be performing Beauty and the Beast Jr. Erika Navin, Sunset’s education director, implemented the junior musical series in 2014 to give students the experience of going through an entire rehearsal and performance process. Since the main stage is also producing Beauty and the Beast, the children will get to meet their adult counterparts in special rehearsals and do a sing-along with them.
“My favorite part of the junior musicals is seeing the kids run down to the dressing room screaming after the first performance because they are so excited with how it went,” Navin said. “I hope the program can give them a sense of accomplishment and pride in working hard on something.”
Visintainer-Armstrong said Sunset chose Beauty and the Beast as the holiday show for its appeal to all ages. Despite being around since 1960, this will be Sunset’s first time staging a Disney show.
“Out of all the Disney I have done over the past 10 years, Beauty and the Beast is probably my favorite,” Miller said. “This is because of the story and energy behind it as well as the villainy and the relationships that are built. To me, it’s one of the more layered Disney shows to produce.”
Beauty and the Beast runs at Sunset Playhouse Nov. 30 – Dec. 23, while Beauty and the Beast Jr. runs Dec. 10 - 11. For tickets call the box office at 262-782-4430 or visit sunsetplayhouse.com.