HUNTINGTON – Opening weekend for the Huntington Area Regional Theater production of Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” at Ritter Park was nothing shy of magical.
From the awe-inspiring set to the transformative makeup, costumes and cast members who truly embodied their characters, it was hard for John and Julia Hutchison to pick their favorite part.
“Just seeing how they made the whole story come together, it was magical,” said Julia Hutchison, a retired school teacher.
Julia, 66, said coming to these outdoor performances has become a tradition for her and her husband since before the Huntington Area Regional Theater – or HART – took the place of Huntington Outdoor Theater – HOT – in 2013.
“We are here every summer because we know it’s important to support our local theater,” she said. “We have such good talent in our area, and we need to support them and let them know that we appreciate what they do.”
Megan Creasy, 24, who plays Belle, said support from the audience was evident opening weekend, especially Friday night as more than 500 people packed the Ritter Park Amphitheater.
“After the pre-show ended, and I heard the audience applause, I knew there was a lot of people out there. And, then when I actually got on stage and saw the hundreds of people, it was amazing,” she said. “And the energy that was brought by the crowd was just so inspiring for everyone on stage.
For lead actors Creasy and Levi Kelley, who plays the Beast, stepping into their roles was a dream come true.
“This is a role that I have wanted to play since it was done on this stage 12 years ago,” said Kelley, who is 23 years old. “In my opinion the Beast is one of Disney’s best characters. He’s so well written and has a story that a lot of people can relate to, like feeling lonely or having social anxiety like I do myself.”
Creasy said she also sees a great deal of herself in Belle, who also happens to be her favorite Disney character.
“Of course I’ve watched the movie over a million times and getting to play her is just an incredible honor,” she said.
Disney princess Belle was also the favorite of 4-year-old Zoey Adkins, who attended the play with her aunt.
Adkins, like most people in the audience both young and old, said she knew all the words to every song and couldn’t wait to see the magic that is “Beauty and the Beast” come to life before her very eyes.
Whether they were there because of their love of the movie or to cheer on loved ones, Creasy said she hopes everyone leaves knowing more about forgiveness and to never judge a book by its cover, which is what “Beauty and the Beast” is all about.
“This is a magical kind of play,” she said “The Beast is thrown into his position because of magic. But in a real-life circumstances things happen to people, and it changes them. I hope everyone leaves knowing that just showing love, grace and forgiveness can just do a whole world of change.”
The Greater Huntington Park and Recreation District and HART in the Park’s production of “Beauty and the Beast” continues for the two more weeks with performances Friday through Sunday, June 23-25 and June 30-July 2 at the Ritter Park Amphitheater.
Gates open at 7 p.m. for picnics with the children’s pre-show at 7:30 p.m., the community pre-show entertainment at 8 p.m., and the main show at 8:30 p.m.
Tickets to “Beauty and the Beast” are $15; $12 for seniors and children; group rates also available. Tickets can be purchased now at www.GHPRD.org, by calling 304-696-5954 or at the gate the night of the show.