Kathryn Edwards is darting around the Black Box Theatre at Lakeland College. Like a pinball, she goes from the props to the sets to the costumes to the actors. The Lakeland drama instructor is directing a produc - tion of Beauty and the Beast Jr., with a cast of 45 children from ages five to 17. In one corner, the chest of drawers is helping the teapot get into her costume and characters adjust their wigs.
At the back of the room Edwards carefully prepares the enchanted rose, which keeps the cursed prince trapped in Beast mode. The prop rose is placed on a stand and wrapped in Christmas lights. Once it’s plugged in, the bulbs become glowing thorns.
“If the rose gets knocked over I will cry,” she warns the ensemble. “And I might get mad.”
After giving instructions to the cast, Edwards turns on her CD player and as the opening notes fill the practise space dress rehearsal begins.
Being the “Jr.” edition of Beauty and the Beast , the show has been condensed and some songs and dialogue have been left out. These modifications make the musical more suitable for a younger cast and a younger audience.
“The timeframe is a little bit shorter so that we don’t have little guys that are getting impatient by the end of the show and it’s also easier for our cast because we do have a younger cast that the show itself isn’t as long for them either,” she said. “It’s less for them to memorize, fewer songs, it’s not quite as overwhelming.”
Edwards says that it is important for a young audience to see young actors on stage. She hopes to inspire children to try theatre themselves and “spark that creativity in them.”
“There’s something very magical about live theater,” she said. “There’s that energy that you get that you don’t get from going to a movie seeing it on the screen. You’re involved in the action. You get to be a part of the action just by being there and being in the moment”
On the Feb. 14 weekend, Edwards’ students had the chance to experience theatre from the audience’s perspective when she took them to see Beauty and the Beast performed on stage by professionals in Edmonton. She says the field trip left her cast “fired up” about their own production.
“We have a thriving arts community ... and we’re really discovering that our youth here in Lloydminster is really talented and I think it’s very important for us to encourage and support,” Edwards said. “We don’t really have much in the way of children’s musical theatre, so it’s a really great opportunity for parents to come out and bring their kids and introduce them to the magic of live theatre.”
Beauty and the Beast Jr. hits the Vic Juba Community Theatre stage at 7 p.m. on Feb. 26 and 27, and at 1 p.m. on Feb. 28. Tickets are $10 for children 12 and under and $15 for those ages 13 and up. A dinner theatre option is available on Feb. 26 and 27 at 5:30 p.m. Tickets are $15 for children 12 and under and $25 for those ages 13 and up.