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God is at the center of ‘Beauty and the Beast,’ ‘Shrek the Musical’ productions

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A beauty, a beast and an ogre are teaching youths spiritual lessons as part of the latest productions of the Upper Room Theatre Ministry in Manassas and Summer Theatre Program in Alexandria.

Robert Tessier, director and producer of “Beauty and the Beast,” said the young actors are learning how to put God at the center of the theatrical process. The Upper Room Theatre Ministry’s 16th production “emphasizes the value of the soul and human dignity, and being able to pull that out of someone who may have muddied their soul,” said Tessier.

Abby Chaumont, the lead dancer, appreciates that rehearsals begin and end with prayer. “Many of the older cast members are people I can look up to (for guidance), and I hope to be as faithful and devoted as them when I am older,” she said.

Marie Tessier, the Milkmaid, said there is a strong spirit of service and faithfulness in the Manassas program. “We have a greater purpose for our performance,” she said. “We know that our talents are a gift from God so we gratefully share that gift to glorify Him and uplift the audience.”

“Beauty and the Beast” features professional costumes, lighting and sound. The annual productions, which have included "Godspell,” “Fiddler on the Roof” and “The Sound of Music,” are a major fundraiser for the Upper Room Theatre Ministry, and provide opportunities for students to attend WorkCamp in Fredericksburg or go on mission trips to Bánica, Dominican Republic.

“Shrek The Musical” is the 21st production of the Summer Theatre Program, a collaboration of St. Bernadette Church in Springfield and Bishop Ireton High School in Alexandria. With more than 70 students in the cast and crew, the staff tries to make sure everyone feels supported. During the several weeks of rehearsals, Fridays were ministry nights, with prayer, games and fellowship, for spiritual renewal and bonding.

Paloma Ferreira, assistant public relations and marketing manager for the production, said the 30 staff members bond with each other first to provide a foundation to give the cast. “It is really important for us to know everyone by name and know how they are feeling,” she said.

Andrew Curtin, director of “Shrek The Musical,” said the students are Catholic or from other denominations, which allows students to encounter people of different backgrounds. “It shows how God is calling people together,” he said.

Caroline Grass, a graduate of Woodson High School in Fairfax, stars as Fiona in her first major role with the theatre ministry. “The program preaches nothing but support, acceptance and family,” she said.

Students come from different schools and only see each other at rehearsal. “We have this bond that is really special that cannot be found anywhere else,” she said. “I was really lucky to have been a part of that.”

The newly established Nativity Players Theater Ministry at Church of the Nativity in Burke is presenting “Godspell” through July 23. The production is being directed by Kimberly Siepmann. According to a note from the director on the parish website, “Those who know ‘Godspell’ understand that through the silly games and stories depicting the parables and lessons Jesus taught, Jesus is bringing together a group of very different people and making them into a community,” she said. “Themes of kindness, tolerance, love, hope, growth and family abound.”

If you go

“Beauty and the Beast,” All Saints Church Performing Arts Center, 9310 Stonewall Rd., Manassas, July 18-23, 7:30 p.m., and July 22-23 matinee 1 p.m., allsaintsyouthministry.org/theatre/tickets

“Godspell,” Church of the Nativity, 6400 Nativity Lane,Burke, July 21-23 at 7:30 p.m., and July 22-23 matinee at 2:30 p.m., nativityburke.org/nativityparish/theater-ticketing

“Shrek the Musical,” Bishop Ireton High School, 201 Cambridge Rd., Alexandria, July 27-29, 7:30 p.m., and July 29 matinee 1 p.m., summertheatreprogram.org/tickets

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2017