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“Beauty and the Beast” Promises Summer Theatre Magic


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Zimmerman (Beast/Prince) and Monson (Belle) gaze lovingly at each other


Enchantment is in the air at Ohio Northern University, but this year's summer theatre production of Disney's "Beauty and the Beast" is no tale as old as time. Debuting Aug. 23 at ONU's Freed Center for the Performing Arts, "Beauty and the Beast" promises a delightful performance—"Northern" style.

Lending ONU magic to the beloved fairy tale is a stand-out cast of University students, faculty and local children. The production receives extra sparkle from leads Kenley Shea Monson, as the beautiful bookworm "Belle," and Matt Zimmerman, who brings to life the gruff, albeit loveable, "Beast."

A senior communication arts major from Powell, Ohio, Monson is a familiar figure on the ONU stage. She has been featured in nine roles, including the perennial Christmas favorite, "Holiday Spectacular." While Zimmerman, senior political science major from Sidney, Ohio, has lent his talents to "Brigadoon," and last summer's production of "Once Upon a Mattress."

Monson and Zimmerman rehearse for the love story "Beauty and the Beast"

Fans may notice, however, that the two stars look a little different this time around. Monson has parted ways with her natural blonde locks to play Belle, proving that although gentlemen may prefer blondes, brunettes are the women of choice for Beasts who become Princes.

"It was important to me to remain authentic to Belle," she explained, "She's a smart, independent character and I think playing her is worth the change."

Zimmerman is dealing with hair issues in a different way than Monson. He will be donning fur-laden arms and a hairy headdress to grace the stage in true Beast fashion. His challenge, he said, will be to transform from the Beast to a "relatively handsome prince" in only a few minutes.

But it's a challenge Zimmerman is willing to accept for a role in a production he described as "a spectacle of the same caliber as other ONU theatre favorites. No detail is spared."

Monson echoes Zimmerman's remarks, emphasizing the elaborate costumes and sets "Beauty and the Beast" will display. "It will be Disney World in your hometown."

Adapting "Beauty and the Beast" from the 1991 Academy award-winning film means presenting the familiar characters much like the audience expects, a task both Monson and Zimmerman recognize as important.

When asked how he plans to bring Beast to life, Zimmerman is respectful of the role.

Monson and Zimmerman discuss their roles with director Renee Dobson

"There are a lot of expectations and you have to honor those," he said. "But, as an actor, you also have to make the role your own."

Monson faces similar pressures. "Every little girl in the audience will be waiting to see a Belle just like the one she knows from the movie."

While Monson and Zimmerman promise a faithful adaptation, ONU's production will give the audience a little extra magic. Cast members get a chance to stretch their creative muscles in scenes and songs unique to the stage version.

Zimmerman practices his beastly growl

With every hair in place and high energy on-set, Monson and Zimmerman agree that the entire cast has settled into their roles splendidly.

As the classic fairy tale comes to life, audiences young and old are sure to enjoy the charming love story with enough pizzazz to curl your hair—or turn it brown, rather.

Monson and Zimmerman guarantee "Beauty and the Beast" will be "magical."

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Written by Autumn Steiner
Junior, professional writing
Bluffton, Ohio