The Penguin Project will present the Disney classic “Beauty and the Beast Jr.,” Sept. 13 through 16 at DeKalb High School.
The program, operated by CCT, provides children and young adults with special needs the opportunity to take center stage in Broadway-style musicals, which allows them to showcase their abilities, rather than be defined by their disabilities. Each of those individuals is assisted by a peer mentor. Together, the duos have been rehearsing for four months to learn all of the songs and dances that have made this show a family favorite for more than two decades.
The cast, which includes 35 artists and 35 mentors, makes this the largest Penguin Project show to date. Headlining that group are Haley Tyrrell, of Sycamore, as Belle and Jacob Morton, of Genoa, as the Beast.
Blind since birth, Tyrrell is a passionate singer who is a veteran of supporting roles in several shows, but this is her most ambitious role to date. Assisted by her mentor, Annie Shirley, of Plano, Tyrrell plays the role of a French country girl who dreams of a more exciting life, like the ones she reads about in fairy tales.
“Haley uses her amazing voice to bring Belle to life, and her performance is one that audiences will remember for a long time,” Julie Breidenbach, musical director for the show, said in a news release.
Morton will be equally memorable. He attacks the role of Beast with tremendous energy, focus and an extremely convincing growl. Appearing in his first show ever, Morton, who has Asperger’s syndrome, has worked closely with his mentor, Brittany Watne, and director Tracey Busby to bring out the nuances of the character.
“Whether he is raging at his servants or showing his more tender side to Belle, Jacob has done an excellent job of finding all of the facets in his character,” Busby said in the release.
Penguin Project veterans Garret Shuck, Cortland, and Adam Wirth, Waterman, provide comic relief, and conflict, as town bully, Gaston, and his sidekick, LeFou, who bumble their way through a plot to get Gaston married off to Belle, and ultimately lead the village in a quest to storm the Beast’s castle. That battle finds them tangling with a castle filled with enchanted objects, including a talking clock (Cody Marbutt, DeKalb), a romantic candelabra (Jacob Ihm, DeKalb) and a singing tea pot (Sheri Shramer, Cortland).
Those enchanted objects, and dozens of others take center stage in one of the shows signature songs, “Be Our Guest,” culminating in a kick line unlike any other ever seen. Other featured songs include “Belle,” “Kill the Beast.” “Gaston” and “Home.”
Tickets for the show cost $10 for adults and $5 for students. Children younger than 2 are admitted for free. Tickets can be purchased online at www.CCTOnstage.com, by phone at 815-200-4747 or at the theater. Shows are at 7 p.m. Sept. 13, 14 and 15, with a 2 p.m. matinee on Sept. 16.