Huron Country Playhouse: Actress journeys from Belle to boss

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Jayme Armstrong is inviting audiences to be her guest at her directing debut leading a production of the musical Beauty and the Beast at the Huron Country Playhouse.

The veteran performer, who is in her ninth season with theatre owner Drayton Entertainment, went into rehearsals with her Beauty and the Beast cast right after finishing her own run on stage in the lead role in Thoroughly Modern Millie at the St. Jacobs Country Playhouse.

“It’s very exciting for me,” Armstrong said.

Her chance to direct Beauty and the Beast comes after appearing three times as the character Belle in the popular Disney musical.

The 1991 animated film version was the first animated film to be nominated for a Best Picture Oscar and won an Academy Award for best original score.

Just a few years later, it was the first Disney animated film to be turned into a Broadway musical

“What’s really nice right now is that the new live-action Disney movie just came out last year,” Armstrong said.

“I think the story was sort of rejuvenated in that way for a new audience.”

Beauty and the Beast is “an incredible love story, but it is about finding beauty that is not skin-deep,” she said.

Armstrong grew up in British Columbia where she had her first experience acting at the age of six when she played a Munchkin in a hometown production of The Wizard of Oz.

In 2008, she made it into the top three on the CBC reality show How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria staged to find a lead actress for a revival of The Sound of Music.

She didn’t get that job, but did play Maria later in a production at Drayton where she has also appeared in Mary Poppins, Little Shop of Horrors, Peter Pan, Chicago, The Little Mermaid, Legally Blonde, Camelot and many others.

Armstrong said one of the things she loves about the Drayton company is the variety of roles she is able to play.

“I don’t know any other place where you would get such variety and such challenge in what you do,” she said.

“One of the advantages of working at Drayton is I get to work with a lot of my colleagues and friends.”

The cast include Danielle Wade as Belle, Tony Edgerton as the Beast, Brent Thiessen as Gaston, Victor A. Young as Maurice, Valerie Boyle as Mrs. Potts, Zoe Brown as Chip and Patrick Brown as Cogsworth.

“I know all of the people I’m working with fairly intimately from sharing the stage with them, so we just have a great rapport,” she said.

Calling Beauty and the Beast a technical show “would be a vast understatement,” Armstrong said.

“The set is enormous. It has to function as a castle, and a village and many, many others things along the way.”

John Dinning is the set designer, Michael Barber is musical director and Robin Calvert is choreographer.

The show even has a fight director, Joe Bostick.

Beauty and the Beast runs until Sept. 3 at the Huron Country Playhouse.

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