An enchanted castle filled with captivating characters, a beast with a heart of gold and an ancient curse that only true love can dispel — this is the magic of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, the latest production of the Bloomfield Players. The musical opens March 17 and runs for two consecutive weekends through March 26.
Featuring a 36-member cast ranging in age from 8 to 76, this Broadway hit brings to life the timeless tale of the unfortunate beast who wins the heart of the provincial beauty Belle in a family show with dazzling costumes, lively songs and dance numbers sure to delight audience members of all ages.
Co-producers Lisa Rich and Stacy Gittleman, both of West Bloomfield, are thrilled to be working together on such a fun and fanciful production.
“It’s a beautiful show, and the young kids are having a blast being napkins, forks and knives. It’s just so much fun to watch them learn,” Rich says.
Like many members of the Bloomfield Players family, it was their children who brought them into the fold. Rich became involved in 2002 when her then-9-year-old daughter, Marlee, was cast in The Sound of Music. Rich and her daughter continued their involvement onstage and behind the scenes, while her husband, Larry, lent support by ushering during Lisa’s shows. Rich now serves as president of the Bloomfield Players board.
“My favorite times were being onstage with my daughter,” she says.
Gittleman’s first exposure to the Bloomfield Players was in 2013 when her then-fifth grader, Toby, came home from school with a flyer for Fiddler on the Roof. When he was cast in the show, Gittleman became a “stage mom” — but instead of dropping Toby off at the door, she would stay and help out. She began performing a variety of on- and off-stage tasks, including acting, chaperoning kids in the green room and using her journalism background to help with publicity. Before long, she was asked to join the theater’s board of directors. Beauty and the Beast is her first experience as a producer.
“When you perform, you get to understand what goes on around you,” Gittleman says. “But performing is just the tip of the iceberg.”
As a producer, she has learned how to coordinate all the behind-the-scenes components that go into a successful show, such as script selection, hiring a cohesive creative team, casting the parts and coordinating costumes and scenery.
“We get a lot of support from our board, but there are a lot of details, a lot of spreadsheets,” she says. “It’s a learning experience.”
Beauty and the Beast is the first Bloomfield Players show performed on the new stage of the renovated Bloomfield Hills High School, a consolidation of the former Andover and Lahser high schools in the Bloomfield Hills School District. The stage and dressing areas are state-of-the-art, with the look and amenities of a professional theater.
“We are very grateful to [the Bloomfield Hills School District] for allowing us to use their space and their new stage. It’s phenomenal,” Gittleman says. “It was a very moving experience to stand on it for the first time, knowing our show would be performed there, like a dream come true.”
A FAMILY AFFAIR
Bloomfield Players is known as a family theater group in both figurative and literal terms.
“We’re very different from other community theaters because we stress the family,” says Rich, who adds that if a family auditions for a show, a place will be found in the cast for every member of that family. “We embrace the family concept.”
The Foreman family, which includes Fred and Jane and their daughter, Jacqui, are one of Bloomfield Players’ theater families. Jacqui is one of the featured dancers in Beauty and the Beast, while Jane volunteers in various capacities and Fred runs the sound board.
“We’re so lucky to have the Foremans; they’re like the wind beneath our wings,” Gittleman says.
Udi Kapen and his daughter, Kayla, are another family team who shared the stage for many performances until Kayla left for college. Udi has stayed involved, playing the villager D’Arque in the current production.
Gittleman, who joined the Bloomfield Players soon after her family moved here from New York, is gratified when other new-to-town families join the group.
“I have a family of adopted children, my theater kids, who I’ve watched grow up. We’re a family. We care about each other. We’re there for each other,” says Rich while baking cookies for the next day’s rehearsal. “Kids meet on our stage and become lifelong friends.”
Husband-and-wife team Steve and Sandi Krupa bring decades of experience in community theater across Metro Detroit. Steve is the director of the show, while Sandi is in charge of costumes.
“They have called in all their resources to get these amazing costumes,” Gittleman says.
Other Jewish cast and crew members include Ellory Becker, Rob Grodin, Robert Hack, Tyler Richmond and Meredith Shapiro (ensemble); Eli Eisenberg (Chip), Joyce Breitman (props); Debby Portney (house manager); Richard Gibbs (stage crew); and Carol Cooper (makeup).
Ronelle Grier Contributing Writer
Disney’s Beauty and the Beast runs March 17-19 and 24-26 at the Bloomfield Hills High School Theater, Bloomfield Township. $15 for adults and $12 for seniors and students. Call (248) 433-0885 or visit etix.com/ticket/v/11559.