I recently had the pleasure of working withOut of the Shadows Theatre on their recent production of Beauty and the Beast Jr. Holy cow was this an experience!
The actors are composed of adults with special needs. They are joined onstage by non-disabled “shadow actors” who prompt, coach, and support them. A professional crew, set, and lighting team all come together to make a professional caliber show. Local legends Ellen Travolta, Jack Bannon and Molly Allen joined the team, too. Wendy Carroll produced it, and my mom, Tia Wooley, was the stage manager.
You could tell right away there was so much support and excitement in the air. When Rachel and I arrived to start getting some backstage photos, the line to get in the theatre stretched across the entire lobby of the Kroc Center. The house was completely sold out, with 200 people being turned away from the show. I’m pretty sure that is a new record for the Kroc center (the current home of the CDA Summer Theatre). Some stayed and watched the show from the monitors in the lobby. The second day was also sold out.
Here is a quick cell phone video I took as the house filled up and people were being turned away.
The real magic of the show happened after the opening number. All of the actors had just finished and the crowd erupted into loud cheering and applause. Not the typical polite clapping you get from most shows – but genuine, full, and proud applause. You couldn’t help but smile the entire time as the actors embodied their characters with full support and love from everyone around them. It was truly magical.
The energy and excitement carried on throughout the show as the actors transformed to play the parts. You could hear whispers in the audience: “He’s not like this at home – he so quite and to himself” – and shouting from family members and friends.
This was a wonderful production, and one I’m glad I was able to document.