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The Journal Gazette

  • Photos by Rachel Von | The Journal Gazette Andrew Sherman, who plays the beast, and Darby Bixler, who plays Belle, rehearse for “Beauty and the Beast.”

  • Carleen Reynolds plays Mrs. Potts and Tori Burke plays Chip in the Civic Theatre production.

  • Bixler and the rest of the “Beauty and the Beast” cast will perform shows from Saturday until Aug. 6.

Friday, July 21, 2017 1:00 am

Civic Theatre begins 90th season with 'Beauty and the Beast'

COREY MCMAKEN | The Journal Gazette

If you go

What: “Beauty and the Beast”

When: 8 p.m. Saturday and July 28 and 29 and Aug. 4 and 5; 2 p.m. Sunday and July 30 and Aug. 6

Where: Arts United Center, 303 E. Main St.

Admission: $30 adults, $25 ages 60 and older, $17 ages 23 and younger; 424-5220 and

What: “Beauty and the Beast” sensory-friendly performance for families with children with autism and other sensory sensitivities

When: 2 p.m. Saturday

Where: Arts United Center, 303 E. Main St.

Admission: Free, call 424-5200 and use code SFP


Darby Bixler, actress

Q. Your family is involved in the local theater scene. Are there things you've learned from them over the years?

A. Yes I grew up in a very theatrical household! I never knew radio songs growing up, only showtunes! My parents have taught me so much, but the biggest thing is to appreciate each experience and everyone involved. Everyone, from the cast to the crew, works equally as hard to produce the best show possible. Everyone deserves respect.

“We don't like what we don't understand.”

That line from Disney's “Beauty and the Beast” isn't sung by either of the titular characters. It comes from “The Mob Song” where villagers are preparing to hunt down the Beast, and John Tolley sees it as key to the musical's theme.

“I knew the show, and have always thought it was a sweet, little Disney fairytale,” says the director of Civic Theatre's production. “But now that I'm working with it deeper, I'm finding it profound in ways that I didn't consider it before. It has a lot to do with appreciation of diversity and the tragedies that happen when we 'other' people – when we set ourselves against the differences that we find in people.”

That idea of avoiding stereotyping and encouraging acceptance is being emphasized in the show, which begins Saturday. It stars Darby Bixler as Belle and Andrew Sherman as the Beast.

Saturday night's show is the opening of Civic Theatre's 90th season. Doors open at 7 p.m. and ticket-holders will receive a free cupcake as they enter the theatre. The night's performance will be preceded by the presentation of a proclamation from the mayor's office and remarks from executive artistic director Phillip H. Colglazier and board President David Storey in the auditorium. An after-show party will take place in the gallery for $3.

Fans of the Disney movies will be familiar with the story of bookworm Belle who falls in love with the monster living in a castle with talking furniture. Disney first told the tale as old as time in an animated film in 1991, and more recently in a live-action movie starring Emma Watson.

Tolley says he isn't worried about Civic Theatre's production coming on the heels of this year's movie.

“I think for the most part, it actually helps,” he says, explaining that people who have recently seen it on screen might be more likely to come to the theater to see it live.

Tolley says “Beauty and the Beast” translates well to the stage and is the type of show that has audiences leave the theater whistling.

He hopes audiences carry a message of acceptance out of the theater along with the earworms.

“That would be a successful run for me,” he says.

– Corey McMaken, The Journal Gazette