For two hours, Rim Country theatre goers laughed, sang and shouted along with the 63 children who performed “Beauty Lou and the Country Beast.”
The show encouraged audience participation, which gave the performance an energy lacking in more traditional plays.
At one point, director and tour actor Gregory Kanter wandered out into the crowd to simulate a journey through the night.
“Close your eyes,” he ordered the audience who promptly did as asked, “That’s how dark it was.”
The crowd busted up before Kanter granted them permission to open their eyes.
Parents, friends and supporters buzzed in amazement at what the two directors, Kanter and Arianne DeCerb, from the Missoula Children’s Theatre (MCT), accomplished in one week with the profusion of children who they taught to dance, sing, and recite lines perfectly.
Sophomore Jason Lemon stole the show each time he took center stage as Fleabite Clyde, the ever faithful (at least most of the time), canine companion of Buckaroo Bob, played by Kanter — all in dog cries.
“A — roo, rar, roo. Bark! Bark!” bayed Lemon for his lines.
At one point, Lemon acted out what would happen to he and Kanter if they decided to visit the Beast in the mine to pick a rose for Beauty Lou.
He contorted and mimed pain and suffering — Buckaroo Bob didn’t fall for it.
Based on the classic story, “Beauty and the Beast,” the MCT production set the story in a small western town complete with a rodeo and country fair.
The fair and rodeo scenes allowed the 22 children playing the country folk to show off impressive choreographed scenes and jaunty ditties.
“Country fair, country fair!” sang the group.
The remainder of the play portrays the unexpected consequences after the oldest of Buckaroo Bob’s seven daughters wishes that a young, handsome, ungrateful miner with prize-winning roses would turn into a beast.
Unbeknownst to her, the miner does morph into a beast because of her “wish upon a wish bone” — words from a catchy tune sung by the sisters and Buckaroo Bob.
She realizes the error of her ways after her father crosses the Beast in an effort to pluck a rose for Beauty Lou and she must live with him in payment.
The two become fast friends seeing beyond first impressions and appearances. Ultimately the Beast turns back into the handsome miner and he and Beauty Lou marry.
Children from first grade to seniors played age-appropriate parts.
The younger children trouped across the stage dressed as pigs, sheep, roosters, donkeys, horses and cows as part of Buckaroo Bob’s barnyard.
At one point the little ones sang the “Barnyard Symphony,” breaking character to wave at parents who giggled and glowed with pride in the audience.
After the critter parade ended with the animals trouping off the stage, one small pig remained.
Kanter asked, “And do you have something to say?”
“I ham what I ham,” replied the piglet to gales of laughter.
Parent Lynette Brouwer spearheaded the effort to bring the troupe to Payson. At the end of the play, DeCerb went into the details of MCT. The group tours all 50 states as well as 17 countries.
Brouwer hopes others will join with her to bring the troupe back to Payson next year. Anyone interested may contact her at 928-478-6906 or BrouwerL@uwstout.edu.