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'Beauty and the Beast' opens to full house at Firehouse Arts Center

Two actors with Pleasanton ties featured in major roles

Pacific Coast Repertory Theatre opened its season at the Firehouse Arts Center with "Beauty and the Beast" Friday night with performances continuing through Nov. 18 and featuring two stars from Pleasanton.

Lauren Bratton-Kearns (Silly Girl) grew up in Pleasanton and attended Contra Costa Ballet Centre for eight years. She graduated in dance from UC Irvine, studied at Alvin Ailey in New York City for two years, and then performed with several New York City dance companies. Through the audition process, she discovered a passion for musical theater and decided to pursue it.

Renee Goodrich, who was her kindergarten teacher at Valley View Elementary, was not surprised by Bratton-Kearns's choice of career.

"One of the things I had in the room was a dress-up box and whenever it was play time there were fancy dresses she would put on and twirl around the room," Goodrich recalled. "It was in her to be a performer of sorts -- and she was a very good student as well. It's exciting that she's coming home."

Pleasanton resident Joy Sherratt (Belle) also graduated from UC Irvine, in drama, and first pursued her professional career as the leading vocalist aboard the ms Statendam on the Holland America Cruise Line before settling in New York City. She performed for various East Coast regional theaters, earning her Equity card with the role of Sandy in "Grease." Back in the Bay Area, Sherratt has performed with several theater companies, including Playhouse West, C.V. Performing Arts and Woodminster. Recently, she performed major roles for PCRT in "Chicago" and "The Last Five Years."

PCRT is the first East Bay theater company to obtain rights to the Disney version of the classic tale, "Beauty and the Beast," in more than a year, noted Co-Artistic Director David Judson.

"Although we will follow the amazing Disney script and score 'to a T' as required by copyright laws, we'll sprinkle our own magic on the set, the costumes and lighting," Judson said. "For example, NY Times-acclaimed lighting designer Mike Oesch will surprise audiences with some environmental and atmospheric lighting special effects. We'll use innovative digital projections to complement his colorful design and, of course, audiences will see the Beast's Castle.

"This is a classic fairy tale of pride, self-sacrifice and love that will appeal to all people," Judson continued. "As for us, we'll be happy if audiences walk away from the show knowing just a little better how to treat one another."

Judson said that actors and actresses from across the country auditioned for the production and its cast of professionals is supported by regional actors.

Bratton-Kearns spotted an online PCRT audition posting and quickly submitted her photo, resumé, dance and vocal reels and was invited to audition.

"I feel very fortunate to perform in my first musical in my hometown, where I am overwhelmed with the love and support of people who have encouraged me my entire life," Bratton-Kearns said. "It is an exciting and rare opportunity."

Classic Disney tale

What: "Beauty and the Beast"

Who: Pacific Coast Repertory Theatre

Where: Firehouse Arts Center, 4444 Railroad Ave., Pleasanton

When: Nov. 2-18; 8 p.m. Fridays; 2 and 8 p.m. Saturdays; 2 p.m. Sundays

Tickets: $17-$33; Call 931-4848; visit www.firehousearts.org or go to box office.

Special: Meet the Princess Tea Parties one hour before matinees Nov. 4 and 11; $10

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