If theaters aged like wine, Spokane Civic Theatre would be a coveted bottle.
The nonprofit theater was incorporated in 1947 and set up shop in the Post Theater and the Riverside Playhouse before settling into its current location in 1967.
Throughout the years, the Spokane staple has inspired countless volunteers to serve as actors, crew members, ushers and board members, contributing an estimated 55,000 hours every year.
Having produced everything from “Little Women” and “Guys and Dolls” to “Seussical the Musical!” and the upcoming “The Rocky Horror Show,” the Civic Theatre’s range keeps its audience – young and old, theater pro or first-timer – entertained.
With its 70th anniversary in mind, the theater board chose to celebrate with a musical, “Beauty and the Beast.”
While some musicals find performers primarily singing or primarily dancing, interim executive director Jack Phillips cast “Beauty and the Beast” with an eye on multi-talented performers.
“Everybody (in the production) is so busy all the time, and since this is such a familiar story, we had to make sure these people could really handle all the music,” he said. “And indeed we’ve found that.”
“Beauty and the Beast” stars Kaitlin Webster as Belle, Jack Siebel as the Beast, Jennifer Snow as the narrator, Bob Francis as Belle’s father Maurice, Cecil Trail as Gaston, Grady O’Shea as Lefou and Charles Fletcher as Monsieur D’Arque, the warden of the town’s insane asylum.
Taking on the roles of the transformed household objects are Dan Griffith (Cogsworth), Preston Loomer (Lumiere), Lauren Goldbloom (Babette), Kristen Cusick (Mrs. Potts), Noelle Fries (Chip) and Samantha Schnieder (Madame La Bouche).
Nineteen performers round out the cast as silly girls, the bookseller and ensemble members.
Because so many people are familiar with the story of “Beauty and the Beast,” the Civic’s production doesn’t stray too far from the 1991 Disney film.
“As Mrs. Potts sings, ‘A story old as time,’ ” Phillips said. “So you better tell that story.”
But rather than intimidate him, Phillips said that familiarity made working on this production more fun because he got to figure out ways to fulfill the audience’s expectations while working with the constraints of theater.
“We can’t do like the cartoon; we can’t do that kind of magic,” he said. “But we can certainly do theatrical magic.”
One thing that didn’t require theatrical magic to translate to the stage was what Phillips said is the main point of the play: people trying to figure out what they love.
Characters like Cogsworth, the clock; Lumiere, the candelabra; and Mrs. Potts, the teapot, loved being human and spend the majority of the story trying to break the spell they’ve been put under.
And Belle, who at first craved the adventure she found in books, finds the Beast and learns to love him for what’s on the inside, no matter what he looks like.
“That is why people respond to it,” Phillips said. “Regardless of what we look like, there is someone out there who will love us.”
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