Beginning Friday, June 1, Circle Players brings Disney’s Beauty and the Beast to the stage at Z. Alexander Looby Theatre in Nashville as the final offering during their current 68th season. Disney nerd that I am, I couldn’t wait to chat with the show’s director, Katharine Boettcher and cast members Kamryn Boyd, Chris Cavin, Brian Jones and Julie Adams for my latest Rapid Fire 20 Q interview feature.
Rapid Fire WITH KATHARINE BOETTCHER, DIRECTOR, CIRCLE PLAYERS’ BEAUTY AND THE BEAST
JP: Having simply adored you as Ursula in Circle’s The Little Mermaid, I gotta admit, when I heard they were doing Beauty and the Beast, I envisioned you as Madame le Grande Bouche. Instead you’re behind the scenes as director. How did directing this one come about?
KATHARINE BOETTCHER: I was brought in at the last minute back in January, and I have to say I was stunned, thrilled and terrified all at once. I was in the middle of two major projects with other theatre’s and wanted to be sure that I could put 110% of my efforts into this work, knowing that I was coming into the game late. I was blessed to have the best music director in town at my side, John Ray – my better half. So I knew the music would be well taken care of. I knew there were some numbers I wanted to choreograph – Gaston being one of them, but I also knew of an up and coming choreographer who could take care of one of the most iconic numbers in the show – Be Our Guest. I called upon a former student, Ashley Streeter, and I knew that the cast was in great hands. Some of the most incredible performers came out to audition. It was truly difficult selecting this cast and having to turn folks down. This is one of the most talented casts I’ve had the privilege of working with. I just wish I could be up on the stage with them every night, they are astounding!
JP: I always like to ask those who act as well as direct, what advantage do you think your experience on stage has on your ability as a director?
KATHARINE BOETTCHER: Being an actor as well as a director is really the best of both worlds. As the actor/performer you understand the process of creating and developing a character that not only you can relate, but the audience can relate. Being a director, you also are able to see it from ‘the other side of the table” as it were. You see the whole picture. Every good director should be able to communicate their vision as well as incorporate their actors vision into the final product. As a director you don’t get caught in just one character, you look for the relationships and how to develop them into something your audience engages with.
JP: Circle Players is Nashville’s longest-continuing theatre company. To what do you attribute its longevity?
KATHARINE BOETTCHER: Circle is unique because of its continual striving for professionalism. I have worked with many professional companies as well as community theatres and Circle wants to stand out from the crowd. They have build their reputation on quality, character and outreach. Good performers want to work for good companies. That is obvious given the quality of talent that comes out for every Circle audition. There is incredible leadership at Circle, that doesn’t happen by accident. When you offer the best, you get the best people running things.
JP: Alright, I’m about to chat with a few of your stars. So…tell me a little about the cast?
KATHARINE BOETTCHER: What can I say? Several of my stars I have had the privilege of working with before – Chris Cavin on The Little Mermaid – What a voice and what a guy!! Such a please to see him shine in a role that was made for him! Jehieli Martinez – another Little Mermaid alum. So talented and FUNNY!! This lady is not afraid to make bold choices and go for it. She is also an incredible human being, Kamryn Boyd – I knew her as a young freshman in high school and she has grown into an incredible performer and who remains humble given all of her recent successes. Julie Adams – is new to the theatre community and we are incredibly lucky to have such a sweet and gifted lady in our ranks, Jason Bell – funny and kind. He has brought a spark (sorry couldn’t resist) to the cast as well as to his role of Lumiere, Henry Harrington – We worked together on Secret Garden last summer – he is such a kind and beautiful soul and so much fun to be around. Stephanie Howerton – this is our first time working together and I wish I WAS her. This woman has some serious vocal acrobatics and the Met needs to be calling her up!! Earl Landree – we worked on Mary Poppins last summer and he is such a kind spirit. It has been a joy to direct him. Clint Randolf – could probably play any role you asked him to. He is just THAT versatile! I don’t know where he gets all of his energy, Brian Jones-Holy Moly!! He makes an incredible bad guy, but that couldn’t be further from reality. I was lucky to share the stage briefly with him last summer. His voice, his stage presence, his giving nature, his encouragement…I could go on and on. The ensemble is just as incredible and anyone of them could step into any of these roles. This cast is the real deal. They are all stars in my eyes.
RAPID FIRE WITH KAMRYN BOYD, BELLE IN CIRCLE PLAYERS’ BEAUTY AND THE BEAST
JP: It’s not been very long since with chatted about your previous role in Circle’s Steel Magnolias, and now you’re starring in Beauty and the Beast. You’re quickly becoming the belle of the Nashville theatre scene (pun fully intended). What’s it been like to jump from one show to the next with Circle?
KAMRYN BOYD: I had such an amazing experience with the cast and crew during Steel Magnolias. I really learned a lot working with everyone. I feel very honored to have been chosen as a cast member in Beauty and the Beast. To work back to back with Circle Players is such a privilege! I have definitely made lifetime memories and friends to cherish!
JP: What’s your first memory of Beauty and the Beast?
KAMRYN BOYD: My first memory of Beauty and the Beast is as a very young girl. My sister and I used to play dress up in our toy room and put on our own shows for hours and hours. There were several Princesses that we loved but Belle was one of our favorites! She taught me to never judge a book by its cover!
JP: Let’s talk about that yellow dress I’ve seen in the promo shots?
KAMRYN BOYD: The yellow dress is so stunning! I was overwhelmed with emotion when I first put it on at our promo photo shoot. Every girl’s dream is wearing that gorgeous yellow dress and dancing with the Beast! Every time I put it on it is so special!
JP: In most Disney stories, the heroine enjoys the attentions of two suitors, but as Belle, you sort of have three…Gaston, The Beast, and his human form, Prince Adam. Just between us…which one would you choose?
KAMRYNN BOYD: Although Belle finds her true love in Prince Adam, I would have to choose The Beast…Sorry Prince Adam! The Beast evolves right before your eyes. He manages to stir every emotion within Belle and changes who she is and how she chooses to look at the world. . And let’s face it. . He is adorable!
RAPID FIRE WITH CHRIS CAVIN, THE BEAST IN CIRCLE PLAYERS’ BEAUTY AND THE BEAST
JP: Alright, I’ve seeing a pattern here. In recent years you’ve played the brawny Frank Butler in Annie Get Your Gun, the mysterious Emile de Becque in South Pacific and now you’re playing the brooding Beast in Beauty and the Beast. Typecast much?
CHRIS CAVIN: I love these types of roles, so I prefer this typecast! There is so much emotion and depth to these characters. They offer a challenge, fulfillment and, let’s not forget, memorable baritone songs.
JP: When I spoke with your costar, Kamryn, I noted that she’s quickly making quite the name for herself in Nashville theatre. What’s it been like to share the stage with such a talented rising star?
CHRIS CAVIN: She is great! I have known Kamryn for a few years now and have watched her growing both onstage and with other projects around town. I’m so proud of her and what she is accomplishing! She is a joy to watch as Belle because she loves the role so much and it comes out onstage.
JP: I understand Denese Kelley lead the costume team in building the elaborate wardrobe. What’s been the most challenging aspect of conveying The Beast’s emotions through all that hair, makeup and wardrobe?
CHRIS CAVIN: I am unable to use facial expressions as they are lost under prosthetics, make up and hair, so I have to rely on my voice, posture and body movements to bring out Beast’s intentions and feelings. It is a challenge for such a physical role in so complex a costume, but the makeup and costume
team has done a phenomenal job making the Beast come to life!
JP: Tyler Inabinette plays Prince Adam, The Beast’s human form. While you two don’t share any scenes together, you’re both involved in the transformation to and from ‘beast mode’. In the Broadway production, the transformation is quite the spectacle. Can you give me a hint of how it’s presented in Circle’s production?
CHRIS CAVIN: Maybe just a peek. Tyler and I have completely different body types, so that was a bit of a challenge. It utilizes the magic of theater in a combination of lights, smoke, and deft maneuvering. It’s definitely not to be missed!
RAPID FIRE WITH BRIAN JONES, GASTON IN CIRCLE PLAYERS’ BEAUTY AND THE BEAST
JP: Last year, Circle mounted a production of Hunchback, before that, Little Mermaid, and now, Beauty and the Beast, as not only a cast member, but also as President of the Board of Directors for Circle, what is it about Disney musicals that keeps Circle including them?
BRIAN JONES: Walt Disney was a master storyteller and that tradition has permeated from the screen to the stage. A well-told story is always an important criteria in selecting shows. Circle has attempted to produce Beauty and the Beast several times in the past; however, licensing restrictions have prevented us from being able to obtain the rights due to national tours and other professional productions. When the opportunity arose, Circle decided the timing was right as it fit well into our 68th Cinematic Season theme as well as provided a show that was family friendly both from a casting prospective and an audience prospective. We always try to have diversity in our season and Beauty and the Beast filled the need for a family oriented/themed show suitable for people of all ages.
JP: Speaking of Disney’s Mermaid, when I chatted with Katharine earlier, I mentioned her fantastic turn as Ursula. How excited are you to have Katharine directing Beauty and the Beast?
BRIAN JONES: I have had the pleasure of working briefly last summer with Katharine and was immediately impressed by her talent and professionalism. When we were in search of a director, she immediately came to mind and was also recommended by some of Nashville’s most respected theatre colleagues. From the start, Katharine exceeded our expectations and we are truly fortunate to have her working tirelessly with us to mount this show. The bonus is that with Katharine, we also got John (her husband), an accomplished musician himself, to be our music director. This duo is a theatre’s dream come true!
JP: What’s your favorite aspect of playing Gaston?
BRIAN JONES: My favorite part of playing Gaston, other than my amazing sidekick, LeFou, is the transition in character from act 1 to act 2 and playing off the parallels between Gaston and the Beast as they both progress through the show. Plus, who doesn’t love being constantly fawned over! (It’s good for the ego!)
JP: You mentioning LeFou leads perfectly into my next question…Anyone familiar with Disney’s Beauty and The Beast, knows that Gaston’s right hand man is LeFou. Tell me about Clinton Randolph, your LeFou?
BRIAN JONES: Clinton is an incredible performer. Truly, I’ve never seen someone give a character 100% on day one. And as rehearsals progressed, he just kept getting better and better. I think audiences are going to fall in love with my little buddy just like we all have! And the best part, he’s a pretty incredible guy – hard working, not afraid to get his hands dirty and always willing to help out.
RAPID FIRE WITH JULIE ADAMS, MRS. POTTS IN CIRCLE PLAYERS’ BEAUTY AND THE BEAST
JP: Mrs. Potts is my favorite character in Beauty and The Beast, largely because of Angela Lansbury’s magnificent voice work in the original animated film. How excited are you to be bringing the character to the stage for Circle’s production?
JULIE ADAMS: I am completely over the moon to be playing Mrs. Potts! Thrilled to bits! This is my very first musical and my very first role- ever!
JP: As Mrs. Potts, you are cast alongside young Jackson Tolbert as Chip. What’s it like to share the stage with this young actor?
JULIE ADAMS: Jackson is so adorable! He knows all the lyrics to every song and most of the lines, too! He comes from a big musical theater family, so he’s got a tremendous career ahead of him!
JP: Your headshot on Circle’s Beauty and the Beast cast page includes what appears to be the scroll and fingerboard of a cello. After a little digging, I discovered you’re quite the accomplished musician. Of course in Beauty and The Beast, your vocal talents are front and center. How does preparing to play the cello parallel preparing for a vocal performance?
JULIE ADAMS: Yes. I’m a classically trained cellist who’s been having a blast touring with my guitarist husband for the last twenty years! I had been in many pit orchestras for many musicals, but always wondered what it would be like to be on the stage and whether it was something I would have the gumption to do! Performing has always been in my blood, but musical theater is a completely different animal. The cello seems quite limiting to me now, compared to singing and dancing and acting my way across a stage! I’m loving every minute of it!
JP: Considering your classical musical background, would you share your thoughts on Beauty’s score?
JULIE ADAMS: I’ve loved the Beauty and the Beast’s score since I first saw the animated movie! Disney music is iconic and timeless and I’m just as big a fan of it as everyone else! I know I’m not the only one who gets a bit weepy when Angela Lansbury sings the theme!
Julie’s right. She’s not the only one who gets weepy when Lansbury sings the theme. I couldn’t help but listen to the original movie soundtrack while posting this interview, so excuse me while I find a tissue. Meanwhile, as Mrs. Potts might say, time to get out of the cupboard and get ready to be Circle Players’ guest as Beauty and the Beast begins it’s three-week run with performances Friday, June 1 thru Sunday, June 17 at the Looby Theatre (2301 Rosa Parks Blvd.,Nashville). Performances are Thursdays-Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. with weekly matinees Sundays at 3. Tickets are $20 each (with special Theatre Thursday $10 tickets on June 7 and 14. Click Here to order tickets, or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As an added treat for families with children, Circle is hosting a special Brunch with Belle at 10 a.m. on Saturday, June 2 at Old School Farm to Table Restaurant and Barn (5022 Old Hydes Ferry Pike, Nashville, TN 37218). Brunch will include farm-fresh fresh fruit, fresh-baked pastries and an assortment of kid-friendly beverages. There will also be a costume parade with prizes, a souvenir bag, visits and photos with Belle and her enchanted friends, as well as a special performance by Belle herself. Tickets to Brunch with Belle are $30 each and attendees will also be given a $5 email voucher good for any Friday/Saturday evening performance of Circle’s Beauty and the Beast. Click Here for tickets and select Brunch with Belle in the drop-down menu.
Beauty and the Beast directed by Katharine Boettcher with wrap Circle’s 68th season, but they’ll be back for their 69th and Broadway season in August with yet another Disney favorite, Newsies, on stage August 10-26. Click Here for the full list of Broadway-centric shows coming up during their 2018-2019 season. Don’t forget to follow Circle Players on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
If you’ve enjoyed this latest installment of my recurring interview feature, Rapid Fire 20 Q, click to check out previous conversations with members of Nashville and Broadway’s most creative artists. Be sure and subscribe to Nashville Arts Critic by entering your email address in the “Subscribe” section to the right of this article. You can also follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Tumbler.