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MCC ready to take on the Beast

(Brian Korthals/Daily Globe) Several lead characters and an entire drawer of flatware dances to the finale of "Be Our Guest" during a rehearsal of the MCC production "Beauty of the Beast," which will be presented at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday in Slayton.

SLAYTON -- Murray County Central (MCC) senior Dan Beech is having fun these days being, well, not fun.

"I'm pretty much the fun-sucker of the whole thing," he said of his recent alter-ego.

Beech plays the role of Beast in the MCC production of Disney's "Beauty and the Beast," which will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday in Slayton. His character, he said, is grumpy and mean, while the others are silly, fanciful and fun.

"Beauty and the Beast" is the tale as old as time of a spoiled man turned into a beast, an enchanted castle full of dancing furniture and a young woman unhappy with her provincial life. When Beast meets the beauty (after imprisoning her father and other acts guaranteed to make her less than pleased with him), she offers to stay with him if he will let her father go. Beast blusters and roars at young Belle, trying to demand her respect, but eventually the two learn first impressions are not always correct.

Beech, who started his stage career in the MCC drama department when he was in eighth grade, said this year's cast is relatively young, especially with the addition of elementary school students (they play the flatware in the enchanted castle).

"I think people are really stepping up, helping the younger kids understand how to convey their message to the audience," Beech said.

"A lot of the upper classmen are taking on responsibility and helping out," agreed Meghan Carney, who plays the role of Babette, the enchanted feather duster.

A perfect example is that of Chip, played by sixth-grader Tyler Spence. He was on stage for the first time this summer during a production of "Oliver," and said the older kids have really been helpful during rehearsals. Going from a background character to one of the minor leads is kind of tough, he said, because Chip (a tea cup) has more lines. Though Spence is a little nervous about keeping track of a bigger part, he is having a good time.

"I like Chip," he said. "He's a little bit like me."

One of the youngest major leads is Max Whitehead, a ninth-grader who plays the role of Gaston, the larger-than-life, gun-toting, charismatic and handsome man who expects Belle to fall in love with him.

"This is one of the most important roles I've had and there is some pressure," said Whitehead, who has been on stage since he was little. "But this is a great play -- it is well written, we've got a lot of talent on stage and great directors."

Whitehead said he has only seen the Disney movie once, but loves the play. His favorite part?

"The song at the end of act one," he answers quickly, then slips into character the character of Gaston with the ease of an old man putting on a comfortable hat. "It's all about me. I enjoy singing about me, Gaston, because I'm so awesome."

Another cast member who wasn't familiar with the movie is Till Köster, an exchange student from Germany who came to the U.S. and ended up playing the part of an old French man, Maurice. He had his host family, the Wasbergs, rent the video for him.

"I watched the movie, did the audition and got a character part," Köster said. "It is really cool."

He generally plays the trumpet for theater productions in Germany, but is finding that being part of the stage cast is a good way to meet other students and brush up on English, which he has been studying since he was young.

"There are very talented singers, the show is funny and (ticket sales) help support the school," Köster added. "Coming to see it would be time very well spent."

Rachel Carlson, who landed the role of Belle, agreed with Köster's assessment of the play.

"We have all put in a lot of hard work, and it is one of the best musicals MCC has done in years," she said. "The directors are great. The flatware kids are quite entertaining when you see them dancing on stage. Gaston is just crazy full of himself and me...I'm just oblivious to everything."

Several of the lead actors and actresses pointed out that the Broadway version of the play has a few extra songs the movie did not, which really add to the show.

"Be ready to see a play you are familiar with, but with some new turns and twists," Beech stated. "It really is fun for all ages."

Carney said the similarity to the movie is fun, but the MCC interpretation of the play keeps the show fresh.

Other lead roles include senior Nicole Rohloff as the motherly housekeeper/tea pot Mrs. Potts, junior Jake Erickson as the proper butler/clock Cogsworth and Matt Wettschreck as the suave maitre d/candlestick Lemiere.