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August 13, 2022

‘Beauty’ shines through in latest SVCT show

Director: Production is a ‘step beyond’ previous performances

It’s safe to say that Nicole Yarbrough knows more about “Beauty and the Beast” than the average person.

The Livermore resident will star as Belle, one of the leads in South Valley Civic Theatre’s upcoming performance of the classic Disney tale. Turns out, this will be the third time she’s been in a “Beauty and the Beast” production, and has played Belle before.

Her mother “very much loves” the show, Yarbrough noted, and even notified her of SVCT’s auditions for the production.

Yarbrough, who recently had a son and had already spent some time away from the theater world due to the Covid-19 pandemic, decided to take a shot at the audition.

“I thought it would be a good way to get myself back out there,” she said. “It all kind of clicked.”

This time around, Yarbrough said she’s taking a deep dive into the character of Belle, researching the character’s origins and how she has been portrayed over the years.

“Out of all the Disney princesses, she’s the brains, the bravest,” Yarbrough said. “I want to show her adventurous side and play her more fun and upbeat, while also being sincere and true to herself.”

“Beauty and the Beast,” which made its Broadway debut in 1994 based off of the Disney animated feature, follows Belle, who falls in love with the Beast, a prince who is transformed by a curse. The Beast, a brash, self-absorbed character, must learn to love in order for the spell to be lifted.

The Beast in SVCT’s production will be played by Ken Christopher. Christopher is perhaps best known for his role as executive vice president of Gilroy-based Christopher Ranch, promoting the benefits of California-grown garlic to the nation, but the staunch advocate of the bulb also has an acting repertoire that he is beginning to revive.

Christopher, who in recent years has starred in various social media clips, from the serious to the goofy, said he last performed in the theater 15 years ago, when he played Tony in “West Side Story.”

“It’s a dream role,” Christopher said of playing Beast. “The music is so extraordinarily beautiful. To have the opportunity to even attempt it is really exciting and a privilege.”

Christopher will perform in a getup he affectionately refers to as “the buffalo,” complete with face prosthetics, a full chestpiece and more.

“We’re going all out to deliver the fantasy,” he said.

Director Alan Chipman said “Beauty and the Beast” is going to be a “special show,” praising the support of the Christopher Ranch Foundation.

“We’ve always done fantastic stuff, but this is a step beyond,” said Chipman, who has been involved with more than two dozen SVCT productions. “Our costumes are fantastic. Our set is quite elaborate. It is one of the most, if not the most elaborate set we’ve done here.”

During a recent rehearsal, Chipman showed off some of the sets, from a towering castle that looms over the cast to an elaborate town scene with various details.

Chipman said the family show has a positive message for all ages.

“A huge motivation for us to do a fantastic show is the fact that this is the first family show we’ve done in three years,” he said.

Both Yarbrough and Christopher said the performers have developed a strong chemistry since being cast last year, which they say will come through in their performances.

Yarbrough said she also has the added pressure of being a role model for the younger audiences.

“I really want to set that role model for those kids that come here,” she said. “That’s what drives me. We want it to be a magical experience for everybody.”

“Beauty and the Beast” by South Valley Civic Theatre runs select days from June 17 to July 16 at the Morgan Hill Community Playhouse, 17090 Monterey Road. For information and tickets, visit svct.org/2022_beauty.

Erik Chalhoub
Erik Chalhoub joined Weeklys as an editor in 2019. Prior to his current position, Chalhoub worked at The Pajaronian in Watsonville for seven years, serving as managing editor from 2014-2019.

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