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Hillcrest theater club to stage 'Beauty and the Beast Jr.'

Cast members for Hillcrest Intermediate School's musical production "Beauty and the Beast Jr." get fitted for their costumes prior to a dress rehearsal. Students started auditioning for the show in September and started rehearsing in November. The entire cast rehearsed twice a week, while students with a speaking part met three times per week to rehearse lines. The show is set for Friday at Norwin High School.

A group of fifth-graders at Hillcrest Intermediate School plan to put a new spin on a classic story.

The Jansons Theater Club, led by directors Thomas Swenson, Natalie Janov, and Sue Schehr, and a group of about 80 students, plans to open a three-day run of "Beauty and the Beast Jr." on Friday at Norwin High School.

The club, in its third year, prides itself on not cutting any students who want to act in the play, Janov said. It aims to engage students by offering familiar, kid-friendly plays, such as "Mulan" and "Willy Wonka."

The play slightly varies from the traditional renditions of "Beauty and the Beast," Janov said.

"The plot is essentially the same, but it's not as long and is even more kid-friendly," Janov said. "It also lends itself to having a larger cast, so more kids can be a part of the show."

Students started auditioning for the show in September and started rehearsing in November. The entire cast rehearsed twice a week, while students with a speaking part met three times per week to rehearse lines.

Carolyn Tachyr, 11, plays Belle alongside Keeghan Murray, 10, who plays Beast.

During the play, Beast traps Belle in his enchanted castle.

"Beast used to be a spoiled prince, but got turned into a beast," Keeghan said. "He is mean and stubborn and has to learn to love someone if he wants to break the spell."

Carolyn described her character as a lady who always wants more than she has. But after being trapped in Beast's castle, she becomes more grateful for the things she already has.

"I really love my character," Carolyn said. "I'm a lot like her in a lot of ways, like how I love to read, so I just take a little bit of me and her to make the character."

Janov described the Jansons Theater Club as a positive experience for children interested in performance arts.

The program allows students moving on to Norwin Middle School and Norwin High School to transition into theater programs, she said.

"We don't throw them onto stage right away. They sit and read the books at first as part of a gradual process to start memorizing lines and songs," she said. "It guides them through the process of putting on a show."

If you go

Hillcrest Intermediate School's Jansons Theater Club offers performances of "Beauty and the Beast Jr." on Feb. 17 and 18, at 7 p.m., and Feb. 19, at 2 p.m., in the Norwin High School auditorium.

The doors open an hour before the play, which is based on the traditional "Beauty and the Beast" story.

The club will be offering shuttle buses from Norwin Middle School to the high school auditorium to alleviate parking problems.

Tickets, $5, are available at Hillcrest Intermediate School or by visiting www.norwinsd.org/hillcrest .

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