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Tale as old as time: RHS junior stars in ‘Beauty and the Beast’

Avery Guinn, a rising junior at Russellville High School, is currently starring in the Gingerbread Players’ production of the musical Beauty and the Beast at the Shoals Theater.

Guinn plays the role of the Beast, a prince who is cursed because of his uncaring attitude. It’s a tale as old as time: The Beast imprisons the beautiful bookworm Belle, played by Janie Clasgens, who teaches him to be courteous and respectful. In the meantime, the two fall in love, transforming the Beats back into a prince.

“My friend Anna, who plays Babette in the show, told me about auditions the night before,” recalled Guinn. “I thought it would be good for me to have some audition experience for future shows. I decided to audition for the Beast because of how fun it would be to bring that character life. There is a lot of freedom for creativity when playing a character like that.”

Guinn’s first audition, obviously, made a huge impression on the directing team.

“When Avery came to the audition, none of our team knew him,” said show director Jennifer Steen Kilpatrick.  “He walked onstage to audition and introduced himself. The moment he opened his mouth to sing, we were blown away. No one expected that sound to come out of this young man. Once he read from the script, we knew he was meant to be our Beast.”

Guinn said he was excited to learn he had gotten the part. “I learned that I gotten the part the day before I took a plane to Ireland, but all I could think about was how fun it was going to be to play this role and bring the Beast to life onstage,” Guinn said.

Kilpatrick said she has also been impressed with Guinn’s work ethic.

“Avery later told us he learned the song the day of auditions,” she said. “He has been very good to follow direction and has grown so much as a performer during this show. I’m so proud of him and all of his hard work. I have no doubt that this is the first of many theatrical performances for him.

“He is a natural onstage,” Kilpatrick added, “and I can’t wait to see what God has planned for him.”

Guinn said it has taken a lot of work and adjustment to play the character and do so many shows in a short timeframe.

“When I speak in the first act, it’s usually when the Beast is angry,” Guinn said. “I added this kind of growl into my voice to make him sound more intimidating. Although this does help tremendously when playing the character, it makes the singing a challenge.

“Doing nightly shows can be tiring, but we have an amazing cast and crew that pushes through any obstacle that comes our way.”

Guinn said the experience of being a part of the production is something he has cherished.

“Being part of this production has been an amazing experience, and I’ve loved every second of it,” said Guinn. “Our cast and crew and director are amazing. This kind of show could not be done without everyone, and they all do an amazing job. I’m proud to say I’ve shared the stage with such wonderful and talented people.”