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Oregon Children's Theatre production of this classic tale opens Friday, Nov. 10

A beautiful young woman, a handsome prince in the guise of a beast, gorgeous costumes, magical sets and inventive choreography — "Beauty and the Beast Jr." has it all.

PHOTO BY BETH DODGE - The crucial role of Belle is played by Kelli Lopez, 17, a senior at Oregon City High School. She is pictured in front of a backdrop painted by Bridgette Larreau. The Oregon Children's Theatre production of this classic tale opens Friday, Nov. 10, and audiences will see some amazing performances, said Michelle Leigh, director and OCCT founder.

Performances continue through Nov. 25 at the Beavercreek Grange, 22041 S. Kamrath Road, Oregon City, and tickets are going fast.

The musical tells the story of Belle, a young woman in a provincial town, and the Beast, who is really a young prince trapped under the spell of an enchantress.

"If the Beast can learn to love and be loved, the cursePHOTO BY BETH DODGE - Steven Gaytan, 16, plays the role of Gaston, and Jelena Nelson, a 13-year-old seventh grader at Gardner Middle School, plays Lefou. will end, and he will be transformed to his former self. But time is running out. If the Beast does not learn his lesson soon, he and his household will be doomed for all eternity," Leigh said.

"Beauty and the Beast" has long been one of her favorite Disney movies, she said, and this production has her excited again about a Disney princess.

"The irony, of course, is that Belle, like so many true heroines, was not born to privilege or royalty," Leigh said.

"She is a girl who knows who she is and what she wants, and doesn't feel the need to destroy others to have it. But most importantly, she is willing to give it all up in a split-second decision to save someone she loves," she said.

The "Jr." designation on the title indicates that the production has been scaled back from the three-hour Broadway show.

Script provider Musical Theatre International has removed excess dialogue, and songs are either shortened or cut altogether.

"What makes these shows relatable is the pace is quick and doesn't drag with either subplots or overexplaining," Leigh said.

"Kids who come to see them don't feel as if they have missed anything, and the performers get the chance to do a show with the full-scale costumes, props and sets without the length of the original script."

Cast and crew

The costumes for this production have been taken on by Becky Pentecost, who has been Leigh's lead volunteer costumer for the past six productions.

"When I asked her how she felt about inanimate objects she didn't even hesitate, and was excited to do it. We thought about borrowing and/or renting, but she told me she could do this and what she has come up with has been mind-blowing," Leigh said.

Audiences will thoroughly enjoy seeing the Beast, she noted, saying he will be wearing an incredible mask and makeup by Portland make-up artist Dianne Trapp.

The production features 30 performers ages 7 and up and a crew of seven running backstage and booth positions.

"OCCT is a cast-all company, meaning anyone, regardless of past experience, is guaranteed a role in our shows if they register and show up to auditions," Leigh said.

"It's so exciting to see kids who have never taken a lead, show up at auditions, take the part, and prove it should be theirs. To see them flourish and shine is what this program is all about," she said.

"We have performers who have been consistently with OCCT over the years and some who have returned just for this show to be their final farewell as they go off to college. It has been magical."

Sets, artistry

In addition to the performances, audiences will be amazed by the elaborate sets that showcase the eight unique locations that the characters encounter during their journeys, Leigh said.

"We have had to learn how to operate a full-scale show on a very small stage," she said.

This past summer, Bob Forney, one of OCCT's parent volunteers and performers, led a renovation of the stage at the Beavercreek Grange, raising the ceiling by 3 feet, making the stage look twice as big, Leigh said.

"OCCT has been so very blessed the past two productions to have had the amazing artist, Bridgette Larreau, a Portland-based tattoo artist, give so much of her time and talent and create our incredible backdrops," she said.

"For this show she even created the portrait of the prince with the claw marks."

Finally, Leigh pointed to the choreographic skills of Beth Dodge, her daughter, who "shows exactly what young performers are capable of when challenged and encouraged.

"I am so very proud of this production and excited to share it with everyone. We are so very grateful to the Beavercreek Grange for their continued support and giving us a place to call home where we can keep OCCT going."

Beauty and the Beast Jr.

What: Oregon City Children's Theatre presents "Beauty and the Beast Jr."

When: 7:30 p.m. Nov. 10, 11, 17, 18 and 24 and at 12:30 p.m. Nov. 11, 18 and 25

Where: The Beavercreek Grange, 22041 S. Kamrath Road, Oregon City

Tickets: Purchase online at occtheatre.org or at the box office; $6 for children and seniors, $8 for adults.

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