A tale as old as time: NGU prof participates in 'Beauty and the Beast'

Gracie Fletcher, Staff Writer

Amy Randall Photography.

Amy Randall Photography.

She captivated the audience as she took the stage with an unmatchable operatic voice.  Her signature costume and theatrical movements paved the way for the classic Disney movie to come to life on stage. 

Cheryl Greene, the coordinator of the voice program for the College of Fine Arts at North Greenville University, played the signature role of Madame de la Grande Bouche, or Belle’s wardrobe in Beauty and the Beast.

“It is called the wardrobe in the original Disney film as well as the cast, but she does have the name Madame de la Grande Bouche which actually means the Madame with the large voice because she is an opera singer as the character,” Greene said.

Disney’s release of Beauty and the Beast was in 1991, when Greene was still attending school. This was right as Belle and the Beast were becoming a beloved, iconic Disney duo. "My introduction to Beauty and the Beast was when I was maybe a grad student in college," said Greene.

"I know it’s getting ready to be released in September for the 25th anniversary on DVD, when I still have it on VHS," added Greene. 

When the opportunity arrived to take the story out of the VHS and onto the stage, Greene immediately auditioned -- but she is not new to life under the spotlight. 

“I auditioned for this role just like everybody else, though I did past shows with South Carolina's Children’s Theater four years ago in the Sound of Music and I was Mother Abbess,” Greene said.

With rehearsals beginning in the middle of the summer, the production soon came to life as it prepared to make its way to Gunter Theatre, a part of the Peace Center in downtown Greenville.  “We were ready to hit the stage a week before we did. These kids are phenomenal.  It is a very strong cast," said Greene.

Greene took the stage with a refreshing outlook for each performance while looking past the exhaustion of being an actress.  “You live for the first show, but you get different feelings at different times.  By the end of it, you’re exhausted, but you try to bring the same energy each time,” Greene said. 

An unusual factor in the production made the enchantress stand out as a silent character compared to the original 1991 film.  “The enchantress is all the way through the play.  That is a unique element that the director decided to do.  The director chose to have us human when the enchantress comes out as the old lady and the prince refuses the rose and them turns him into the beast.  This happens in just the prologue,” Greene said.

The overall play provided an educational plot to promote the power of books and their ability to be an escape.  “The emphasis of the story is what comes to life in a book; where does the beast get his solace in the story?  It’s when Belle is reading a book to him." Adding, "he says, 'I never knew I could be taken away from a place like this,' so the educational element is very strong."  

"It shows kids that if you read books, you can be taken away to a story like this because of a book,” concluded Greene.