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BWW Review: BEAUTY AND THE BEAST at Stewartstown Summer Theatre

BWW Review: BEAUTY AND THE BEAST at Stewartstown Summer Theatre There is the small town, Stewartstown, located in South Central PA that has been serving their community for the last 38 years in an outreach mission for the performing arts for children through the age of 18. The group is Stewartstown Summer Theatre (SST) and it is the epitome of everything a community theatre stands for: enrichment through the arts, value in building lasting relationships, and an outreach to serve, with compassion and fellowship, their own community as well as those around them in need.

Every summer the theatre works to create a production with the goal of enhancing the spiritual life of the community as well as exhibiting growth in the performing arts. Some of SST’s outreach ministries are: Boy Scouts and Girls Scouts, Mission Trips and Service Projects, Ministries to the Hungry and Ill, and Food Collections. What this group has accomplished in the last 38 years, is commendable and a marvel.

Hundreds of people participate either on the stage or off and everyone is cast in the show, leading to enough actors for two separate casts with a live orchestra. Musicians, lightening designers, costumers, actors, production staffs, and committees all donate their many talents and time to come together for the greater good. This is theatre, and everything it represents, at its finest.

Their current production is BEAUTY AND THE BEAST. The two casts are “Beauty” and “Beast.” I was able to see a show with the “Beast” cast. When the overture is over and Act One begins, it is evident immediately that much thought and planning, by director, A.J.

D’Alfonso, went into how to maneuver so many actors at one time on such a limited space. He does so, however, with the steeliness of a mad professor who suddenly realizes his outrageous experiment works like a charm. And just like that, the audience is captivated into the fantastical world of everything bright and beautiful, both visually and metaphorically.

In the first scene of Act One we are introduced to Maurice (Kaleb Fair) and Belle (Cierra Wecker) and their loving relationship as father and daughter. Fair is spot-on with his interpretation of Maurice. His voice has the cadence necessary to convey the sentiment of his character.

His body language and movements were not over-done but rather realistic. Often when young people play older characters, their physical interpretation is exaggerated. This is not the case with Fair.

He is believable and plays evenly with Wecker’s Belle. Cierra Wecker is a force to be reckoned with in her style and grace as Belle. From the moment she walks on stage, Wecker’s composure is all-enveloped into the strength and talent needed to play the lead.

When she sings, the melodic tone of her voice is forever soothing. She has such masterful voice control and uses her strong acting chops to convey every lyric with conviction. Wecker leaves for college in the fall to further her studies in musical theatre in which I have no doubt she will put her determined stamp of artistry on whatever she touches.

She leaves for the SST several performances in various productions over the years, which were sprinkled with talent, growth and a humble presence. As the story moves along, we are introduced to Gaston (Dan Riale), who boastfully presents himself as arrogantly as possible with a splash of ornery twinkle in his eye. Riale embodies the self-confidence needed to pull off such characterization with an endearing and consistent quality.

One cannot help but smile every time he is one stage. Riale does an admirable job of singing and convincingly struts about the stage like a proud peacock. As Act One closes with Beast’s (Brendan Paules) solo song HOW LONG MUST THIS GO ON we are treated to the extraordinary voice of Paules, will strong acting abilities as well.

It is hard to believe that he is a senior in high school. His maturity on stage in encompassing the role of Beast is commendable. The vulnerability needed to play Beast can be daunting but Paules does so with finesse.

Perhaps the best comedic standout of the show is the character Lumiere (Ian Ross[1]). This is one of those roles that allows an actor to misbehave endearingly. Ross has razor sharp comedic timing which affords him the opportunity to delve deeper into Lumiere’s subtext.

Ross gave an outstanding performance. Among other standouts in the production were Mrs. Potts (Abby Mooneyhan), who gave a lovely and genuine performance; Chip (Daniel Kaliszak) whose performance was endearing; Madame de le Grande Bouche (Julia Wecker) who has the splendid voice of an emerging opera singer, and the Silly Girls (Kayleigh Gallagher, Deborah Halle, Kasey Karoll, and Ella Wetzel, who each played their roles with fantastical giddiness.

The outstanding choreography by Michelle Joyce and Samantha Roedts is showcased in the numbers, BE OUR GUEST. and MOB SONG. Again, with limited spacing, these ladies were able to put together movements that were visually delightful and full of energy. The costumes directed by Rebecca Cromwell and Beth Riale and supported by a committee, were first-rate.

From the dancing dinnerware to Belle’s gorgeous yellow gown, the finishes and creativity were excellent. So many facets are necessary to pull together a large production with two large casts. Every person, contributing their time and talent is valued and needed to pull off such a community endeavor.

Stewartstown Summer Theatre has done so unselfishly year after year (38 years and counting). Each year, the quality of their productions goes up a notch, the production details run a little smoother, and the mission of outreach extends a little further. One can only imagine what the next decades will bring.

In the words of Belle, “home is where the heart is.” Many have shared their talents in love of the home they call Stewartstown Summer Theatre, and many more will too, in the years to come.

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST is playing now through August 12, at Stewartstown Summer Theatre.

Tickets may be purchased online at

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From This Author Christy Brooks[2]


  1. ^ Ian Ross (
  2. ^ Christy Brooks (

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