Arts & Culture

A 'Beauty' of a classic tale

Sarah Reggiardo as Belle, right, reads to a villager in Kelrik Productionsâ™ "Disneyâ™s Beauty and the Beast."
Sarah Reggiardo as Belle, right, reads to a villager in Kelrik Productionsâ™ "Disneyâ™s Beauty and the Beast."

Kelrik Productions’ next show will tell a “tale as old as time.”

The San Luis Obispo theater company will close its 2014 season with “Disney’s Beauty and the Beast,” which runs July 11 through 20 at the Performing Arts Center.

“It’s a story that resonates with so many different people on a lot of different levels,” said Erik Austin, cofounder and artistic director of Kelrik Productions

Austin has been a fan of “Beauty and the Beast” ever since the animated movie opened in theaters in 1991.

“It just has everything we love in a story,” he said, including a strong-willed heroine, a tragic hero and an enduring message about love, acceptance and “finding beauty from within.”

When “Disney’s Beauty and the Beast” opened on Broadway in April 1994, Austin spent six and a half years handling visual merchandising for the show — first in New York City, then in Los Angeles. 

Austin’s next encounter with the musical came in 2005, when, after moving to the Central Coast, he played maître d’-turned-candelabra Lumiere in a Pioneer Players production. (He’ll reprise his role in this production.) Then, in 2009, he guest-directed a Nipomo High School production of the Disney tale. 

Now, after years of waiting for the rights to become available again, Kelrik is presenting its own production of “Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.”

The Tony Award-winning musical follows the same enchanting story as the Academy Award-winning film, pairing the plot with a gorgeous soundtrack, larger-than-life characters and creative costumes and sets. 

Beautiful, bookish Belle (Sarah Reggiardo) longs for a life of adventure behind the boundaries of her provincial village — far away from the likes of muscle-bound, macho hunter Gaston (Jason Chacon) and his creepy sidekick Lefou (Christian Clarno). 

Belle’s life is turned upside down when her inventor father, Maurice (Mike Mesker), gets lost on the way to a fair and seeks shelter at a seemingly abandoned castle. It’s actually occupied by several servants — including Lumiere (Austin), butler Cogsworth (Lester Wilson), maid Babette (Theresa Riforgiate), cook Mrs. Potts (Jackie Edwards) and her son Chip (Drew Vander Weele) — transformed into household objects by a magical spell.

The castle is also home to the Beast (Dylan F. Thomas), a handsome young prince transformed into a hideous monster by the same enchantress. Only true love can break the spell.

According to Austin, the Kelrik production features a mix of local and Los Angeles area residents, ranging from Kelrik regulars to company newcomers. The crew includes assistant director Sandy Schwarer, choreographer Drew Silvaggio and musical director Joshua Krantz.

“It’s kind of like I got to mix all of my experiences from the last six months into one show,” said Austin, who has spent the season traveling between the Central Coast and North Hollywood to direct Kelrik shows. He also helmed Opera San Luis Obispo’s production of “Show Boat” in May. 

In addition, Austin has continued his search for a new space for Kelrik, which goodbye to its home of seven years, Unity of San Luis Obispo, in June 2013.

Austin said one of the key themes found in “Disney’s Beauty and the Beast” has been mirrored in his own life.

“This is all about transformation,” Austin said. “And this one year, that’s what Kelrik had to do.”


"Disney’s Beauty and the Beast"

7 p.m. July 11, 12, 18 and 19; 2 p.m. July 13 and 20

Spanos Theatre, Cal Poly

$29.75 to $45

756-4849 or

Reach Sarah Linn at 781-7907. Stay updated by following @shelikestowatch on Twitter.