Aspen Community Theatre to tackle ‘Beauty and the Beast’ |

Aspen Community Theatre to tackle ‘Beauty and the Beast’

Andrew Travers
The Aspen Times

To volunteer for Aspen Community Theatre, e-mail producer Rita Hunter at or call 970-923-3327.

Aspen Community Theatre is going big again this year, with Disney’s musical epic “Beauty and the Beast.”

The company recently completed casting the 38-actor show and begins rehearsals next week. But the nonprofit is still seeking backstage volunteers and underwriters.

After working on a smaller scale last year with the single set and small cast of “Nunsense,” the company has taken on an ambitious production for its annual show. “Beauty and the Beast” demands complex costuming, set decoration, sound, lighting and some pyrotechnics.

“We wanted to do something that had huge family appeal, so we wanted to do ‘Beauty and the Beast,’” said producer Rita Hunter. “But it’s a massive undertaking.”

Leading the cast are Alixandra Bigley as Belle and Travis Lane McDiffett as the Beast.

Bigley, a newcomer to Aspen Community Theatre, was among the Theatre Aspen Apprentice Program’s class of 2015 in arts administration.

“She truly is Belle,” Hunter said of her lead actress.

McDiffett, an alum of the Crystal Palace dinner theater, returns to the community theater stage after a long absence. He was last seen here in 2006’s “Fiddler on the Roof.” After the Palace closed in 2008, he continued the dinner theater tradition at Laffing Matterz, which he founded in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, but has recently returned home to direct programs and events for the Aspen Historical Society.

The long-running Broadway musical “Beauty and the Beast” debuted in 1994 and is based on the 1991 Disney film (which, in turn, is based on the fairy tale) about a prince transformed into a monster and the girl he keeps captive in his castle.

While the cast is set, the volunteer-run theater company is still looking for help funding the $100,000 show and making it happen behind the scenes. They’re looking for volunteers to assist with stage management, prop assembly and spotlighting, among other backstage jobs.

And while Aspen Community Theatre audiences have come to expect professional-quality productions over four decades — the company celebrates is 40th anniversary next year — funding that high caliber of theater remains a challenge, said Hunter. For a show like “Beauty and the Beast,” they’re looking at about a $5,000 costume budget and $2,000 for lighting alone, she said. As her cast goes into rehearsals, Hunter is hoping to bring more underwriters on board in the hopes of breaking even.

“It’s just that we’re not making any money,” she said. “We’re losing money.”

Hunter and Jody Hecht are producing the show, with Marisa Post directing and Kyle Jones directing music.

“Beauty and the Beast” will run for eight performances in the Aspen District Theatre, opening Nov. 6 and closing Nov. 15. Tickets will go on-sale next month.