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Understudy is ‘Beauty’ of role for Y. student

SHARE Understudy is ‘Beauty’ of role for Y. student

Anna Worthen, a senior majoring in music-dance theater at Brigham Young University, is getting some great on-the-job training this summer.

She's playing a broom in the "Human Again" number of the national touring production of "Disney's Beauty and the Beast."

"I have a hula skirt with a whisk on it," she said during an interview from Costa Mesa, Calif., where the show made a tour stop before coming to the Capitol Theatre in Salt Lake City.

Oh . . . Worthen is also understudying the role of Belle — the "Beauty" part of the show's romantic triangle.

Worthen said she was being fitted for Belle's wig and has been rehearsing the role.

The native of Puyallup, Wash., said she attended the auditions on May 15 at the Doubletree Hotel in Salt Lake.

"A friend of mine was auditioning and asked if I wanted to come along," she said.

The friend didn't get hired, but the Disney casting department called Worthen barely a week later to invite her to join the ensemble.

"That's really unusual," she said. "I auditioned for 'Les Miserables' the last time they were in Utah, and they usually just say they don't have anything available and they'll call you when something turns up — maybe in a couple of months. They did call later for the role of Fantine, but it just didn't work out.

"After the 'Beauty and the Beast' auditions, I knew they liked me, but I also knew it would be awhile before I was called."

So she was surprised when they called just a week later. Worthen joined the cast during the production's run in San Francisco in June.

"I've been rehearsing the Belle role and they're getting me ready," said Worthen, but she hadn't yet gone on stage in the role at the time of the interview.

"Beauty and the Beast," which closes the Theater League of Utah's 1999-2000 season, was originally scheduled to run from July 26-Aug. 13, but was extended an additional week (through Aug. 20), due to high demand for tickets.

"I feel really blessed that I got a job at this point," Worthen said. "I have one semester left and I plan on finishing that up at some point, either by correspondence or after the tour. But this is great on-the-job training — absolutely."

Growing up in the Puget Sound area south of Seattle, she got her first taste of live theater playing Brigitta, the second to youngest child, in a church production of "The Sound of Music." "Then I did some community things and went straight to BYU out of high school," she said.

Worthen performed in BYU's production of "The School for Scandal" last year and also played Rose in the Hale Center Theater Orem production of "The Secret Garden."

Worthen also served a mission for the LDS Church in Australia. "I feel that really helps me better in my profession; I'm better at being able to focus on things.

"Everyone in the (production) company is really friendly. It's a bit of a transitional period, but they've put me at ease from the beginning."

Worthen added that the show is not just for children. "It appeals to audiences of all ages. It's different from the animated feature. There are more songs and lots of spectacle. It really is a 'Broadway' show. I was able to see it for the first time when I got to San Francisco, but I fell in love with the characters when I saw the cartoon years ago."

The touring cast of "Beauty and the Beast" includes Susan Owen as Belle, Grant Norman as the menacing Beast and Chris Hoch as Gaston, the handsome braggart who is determined to have Belle for his wife.

Owen, a native of East Lansing, Mich., performed for three months in a previous "Beauty and the Beast" company, then re-auditioned for the current company when it was formed.

She's been with this tour since September.

"This show has a lot of heart to it and that's important," Owen said, "There are so few shows that you can take the whole family to, but it's true — this has something for everyone."

Alan Menken and the late Howard Ashman wrote the music for the original Disney Studios animated film version of the children's fairy tale. When Disney decided to mount the show as its first Broadway venture, Menken was teamed with lyricist Tim Rice to produce additional songs to turn the film into a full-scale musical.

One of the new songs is "Human Again" — the number where Anna Worthen portrays a singing, dancing broom. It's performed by the Beast's servants, who are gradually evolving from inanimate objects into people. Actually, this song began as a Menken-Ashman collaboration during the scoring of the animated film, but it was dropped from the movie.

PERFORMANCES of "Beauty and the Beast" will be 8 p.m., Tuesdays-Saturdays and 7 p.m. Sundays, July 26-Aug. 20, with matinees at 2 p.m. on July 27 & 29 and Aug. 5, 12 & 19, and at 1:30 p.m. on Sundays (July 30 and Aug. 6, 13 & 20).

All seats are reserved, with tickets ranging from $25 to $65, depending on performance time and seat location. Tickets are available at all ArtTix locations, including the Capitol Theatre and Abravanel Hall, or by calling 355-2787 or 1-888-451-2787. Tickets may also be ordered online at www.arttix.org or www.tickets.com.