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Finke Theatre produces Disney classic ‘Beauty and the Beast’

by Kaden Quinn | September 7, 2023 at 4:00 a.m.
Courtesy/ Andrew Korte: Julie Gragert as Mrs. Potts, David Merritt as Lumiere and Jeromy Layman as CogsWorth rehearse their roles before the Finke Theatre's premiere of “Beauty and the Beast” on Sept. 22, 2023.

CALIFORNIA, Mo. -- A Disney classic will take the stage in California later this month.

Administrator and producer Andrew Korte said Finke Theatre's production of Disney's "Beauty and the Beast" is one of the biggest shows it's ever put on. About 40 individuals are cast in the play.

"There's a lot of work that goes into it. Most people realize ... we actually usually start rehearsing a show about three to four months before and the actual planning for the show starts happening eight months to almost a year prior," Korte said.

Even with 40 people in the cast, many of the actors play double or triple roles. So a lot of those people are running off stage, doing quick changes of costumes and coming right back out as different people.

The Finke Theatre purchased the rights to the play through Music Theatre International, a company Finke Theatre also worked with for its production of Disney's "Newsies."

Linda Pappert is the director, supported by assistant director Ronnie Korte, music director Melody Starnes, and choreography directors LuAnn Madsen, Barbara Mustoe, Kristy Schriefer and Claire Mengwasser.

The cast includes Ashton Knippenberg and Tim Campbell as Belle and Beast, respectively, Alex Wilson as Gaston, Julie Gragert as Mrs. Potts, Tyson Hampton as Chip, Emily Gray as Wardrobe, David Merritt as Lumiere, and Jeromy Layman as CogsWorth.

Other cast members include Elinor Beckwith as Babette, Stephen Newby as Lafou, Roger Martin as Maurice and Paul Bloch as the show's narrator.

Korte said his group is in the final stages of rehearsal. During the past few months, actors transitioned from simply sitting down and running through the lines with fellow cast members to practicing singing and dancing while navigating a newly built set. Korte said the cast and crew are prepared for opening night.

"I always tell my cast doing a musical, it's like baking a cake. You have to put in all the ingredients, then you start stacking the layers and then you just you just keep adding things onto it," Korte said. "I would say at this point, we are spreading icing -- we're doing costuming and painting the set and those little details that really make it come to life."

The Finke Theatre added two additional show dates for the production because the first three showings sold out. Korte said more than 800 tickets have sold, and Finke Theatre is "well over halfway sold out on all of the shows."

"We're thriving and that's in a tough economy. There's lots of places out there that are struggling," Korte said. "We're fortunate enough here, even having so many theaters around us, that we're just thriving, which is allowing us to add on and continue to grow."

The Finke Theatre's production of "Beauty and the Beast" will run at 7 p.m. Sept. 22, 23, 29 and 30, and at 2 p.m. Sept. 24. Tickets are available at They can also be ordered by phone at 573-691-9939.

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