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At The Ridge Theatre presents Disney's 'Beauty and the Beast'
Jennifer Grajewski naturally turned to family to help bring a Disney musical love story to life on the Kent community stage this summer.
The producer also called on many of her friends.
A wide, eclectic cast – young and old – has come together in just a few short weeks to present the classic romantic fairy tale, "Beauty and the Beast".
At The Ridge Theatre's full-scale musical production premieres Thursday night, the first of 14 performances on the theater group's main stage, 12430 SE 208th St., on the Kentridge High School campus.
Proceeds from the musical benefit the local arts and college scholarships. The all-volunteer, nonprofit community theater organization has raised and distributed more than $160,000 in scholarships in the past 12 years.
Grajewski, the show's co-producer with Casey Craig and Kentridge's drama and artistic director, has kept a summer theatrical tradition going despite the daunting challenge of producing such an involved musical.
"It's a huge show, costume and set wise," Grajewski said, "and people expect it to be and look a certain way."
To create the magic of the beloved classic, Grajewski searched and found plenty of talent from the area, including high school and college musical theater students and graduates. The cast also represents a blend of backgrounds and careers – from mechanical engineers to financial analysts – who wanted a chance to perform on stage.
Portraying the Beast, for instance, are two actors – Aaron Johnson, a theater major at Central Washington University, and Reggie Collins, a music and anthropology major at Pacific Lutheran University who also plays football for the Lutes.
"They wanted to come back and give back to their community," Grajewski said. "That's the reason why I started this. I wanted quality theater and quality theater training in our area. ... This is our way to give back to the community."
In assembling a cast of 38 strong, family came to the forefront.
The play has reunited the Sterling brothers. Tyler, a mechanical engineer at Boeing, gained national exposure performing with Vocal Point, a nine-member, male a cappella group at Brigham Young University that took fifth place on NBC's third season of "The Sing Off".
Corbin is a music major at BYU, and Carter is a senior-to-be at Kentridge.
The musical has brought together a Kent family, the Creasers.
Caelan Creaser, a recent Kentridge graduate and award-winning actress who is bound for Ithaca (N.Y.) College to study musical theater, plays Belle, a dream role for her. She joins her younger sister, Brielle, who plays the role of Babette and is the hair and make-up designer for the production.
The mother, Marlene, a music teacher in the Renton School District, makes her stage debut in the role of Mrs. Potts. The father, Jim, a Boeing systems analyst, plays the role of Maurice, Belle's father.
For the Creasers, longtime supporters of the local arts and theater, the production presented a great opportunity.
"Our kids wanted us to have this chance," Marlene said. "How cool would it be that we could all do it together? ... Where else could you do this?"
Caelen added: "It's really fun. It's a good memory before I head off to college."
• Production: "Beauty and the Beast"
• Shows: 7:30 p.m. July 25-27, Aug. 1-3, Aug. 8-10; 2 p.m. July 27, Aug. 3, 10; 4 p.m. July 28, Aug. 4,
• Venue: At the Ridge Theatre, Kentridge High School Performing Arts Center, 12430 SE 208th St., Kent.
• Cast: 38 performers from throughout the Puget Sound area, ages 12-55.
• Tickets: $15 reserved. All three Saturday family matinees are $5, and the seating is general. Purchase through www.attheridgetheatre.com or at the door.