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'Beauty and the Beast' gets towering set (w/video)

By Bianca Montes
July 3, 2014 at 2:03 a.m.

Kathy Montgomery, stage manager for "Beauty and the Beast," stands in the doorway of the Beast's lair as she and other members of the cast and crew work to assemble the set  Wednesday at the Victoria Fine Arts Center. "This is the first time I've done a load-in like this, so it's pretty cool," she said of assembling the massive set.

If you go

• WHAT: "Beauty and the Beast"

• WHEN: 7:30 p.m. July 23-26 and 2:30 p.m. July 27

WHERE: Victoria Fine Arts Center, 1002 Sam Houston Drive

• COST: $20-$28

A large group stood around a massive blue, brick tower - some of them holding pieces together as others tightened bolts into place - working hard to piece together the set of an upcoming production.

The 18-foot rotating tower will soon be the home for Disney's beloved characters from "Beauty and the Beast."

The two pieces that formed a small room behind tall windows arrived in Victoria early Wednesday morning on two 53-foot trucks along with mantels, costumes, stairs and 19 scenery drops. Both stage hands and actors in the anticipated production stood on either side of the set piece, desperately trying to get it to perfectly line up.

Actress and newly appointed stage hand Lauren McDaniel, 34, of Victoria, struggled to twist one of the many pins that would lock the stage in place.

"Last year, we had this huge rotating set that was kind of a monster - it was a lot of fun to work with but a little scary," McDaniel laughed. "This year, we have a huge stage to move around and a bunch of beautiful scenery - it's going to be really cool to see."

Last year, Theatre Victoria sold out its six-day run of the production, adding three additional days and seducing organizers to bring it back.

But this time, they're doing it bigger and better. "Beauty and the Beast" returns July 23 for a five-show run at Victoria Fine Arts Center.

"A lot of people didn't get a chance to see it last year, and I thought, 'What can I do to fulfill their desire to see it?'" Executive Director Scott Mohon said. Bringing it back was a risk, he said, "We can't bring back the same show."

While many elements will remain the same, the story won't change, the songs won't change, and, of course, Kate Klimist and Brett Jones will reprise their roles of Beauty and the Beast, this production takes on a life of its own, Mohon said.

From a larger set to a larger cast as well as professional lighting and a little bit of magical fairy dust, Mohon said the showbiz stars aligned for the production.

His proudest moment, however, is the chance to bring the performance to life with a live band. Professional musicians as well as students from St. Joseph High School and Victoria, Edna and Industrial school districts will perform live in the pit during the show.

McDaniel, who again will perform as Lady with a Baby and a dancing napkin in the assembly, said she has never performed with a live orchestra before and is most excited about that change.

"It's like it's the same show but not," she said, mentioning how great it will be to return to the stage with some of her best friends. "Last year, it was all about that big castle, and this year, it's all about the music and the characters."

Michael Teer, technical director at Theatre Victoria as well as the actor portraying the burly Gaston, said even though they're technically telling the same story, the experience will be different - even for those who saw the production last year.

"You really can't create the same thing twice," Teer said. "The beauty and the magic of theater is that every experience is gonna be new."

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