by Kari Lutes, Features Editor

Though it’s her first time directing, sophomore musical director Kari Brown has high hopes for the musical.

“My goal is to sell out all four shows,” Brown said.

Brown and her cast and crew will be putting on Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” as their sophomore class musical. Brown was first drawn to the musical because of its ability to highlight a lot of different people and talents, and when it was the first “yes” she received in seeking the rights for a musical, she knew “Beauty and the Beast” would be perfect for the Merciful class.

“I really felt like God was telling me, ‘Hey this is what your class is supposed to do,'” Brown said. “Once we started auditions, I knew it was the perfect show for our class.”

The large ensemble cast helps the sophomore class make it their own.

“We focus on what we’re good at,” Brown said. “Our class has a lot of very talented singers, so we’re really highlighting that.”

While the musical was an easy choice to make, it has been a learning experience for both Brown and her cast and crew.

“I really hope that [the audience is] taken away from what is happening in life right now,” Brown said. “When you go, you get to leave the real world for 2 hours.”

For Brown, the process of directing a play—from getting the rights to casting—was completely new to her.

“No one tells you how to do anything. It makes you feel very adult,” Brown said.

Sophomore Skyela Bussey, who plays the lead role of Belle, also sees sophomore musical as a chance to learn about theater.

“It’s so much more than just learning your lines and blocking,” Bussey said. “The Merciful Class –with the help of our fearless leader, Kari Brown—has managed to build the set from scratch, setup risers and seating arrangements, create costumes, and on top of all of that, put together our choreography, blocking and music.”

Both Brown and Bussey also see the musical as a learning experience for the audience.

“It’s a tale as old as time for a reason,” Brown said. “There’s a lot of magical moments that happen on that stage. A lot of really awesome messages like looking on the inside of a person rather than the outside.”

Bussey agreed. “What I love most about Belle is that she is such a role model to young women,” she said. “Belle is also such a strong character and fights for what she believes in. It is so humbling to be able to portray a character like her.”

Bussey and Brown are both looking forward to opening night, and seeing the reaction of the audience.

“I really hope that [the audience is] taken away from what is happening in life right now,” Brown said. “When you go, you get to leave the real world for 2 hours.”

Opening night is also an escape for Brown, who said if all goes right, “my job is to just sit back and enjoy. I know I’m probably going to cry opening night. It’s going to be such a joy to see my vision come to life.”

Bussey is also looking forward to audience’s reaction, adding, “And of course, I am also super excited to wear the yellow ball gown!”

The magic will come to the stage on opening night, but the cast and crew have already had a great experience working on the musical.

“It has been such an honor to work with my classmates, and I’m so fond of the relationships I have formed through this musical,” Bussey said.

The musical will be held in the Asbury Great House Theatre on Jan. 19- 21 at 7:30 p.m. and Jan 21 at 2 p.m.