DreamWrights’ production of Beauty and the Beast
People are terrified by a prince who has been transformed into a monstrous creature in "Beauty and the Beast" at DreamWrights Youth & Family Theatre. (The Susquehanna Photographic)

The tale of a man transformed into a beast and redeemed by love existed long before Disney made singing and dancing dishes famous.

When DreamWrights Youth and Family Theatre puts on "Beauty and the Beast" in May, it will be an adaptation written by director Diane Crews.

"This story is a fairy tale, so it was told by mouth for centuries," she says. "I went back to the (Brothers) Grimm telling."

Crews originally adapted the tale in 2001, and it has changed significantly for this production.

"I went back in and made it larger," she says. "It's up to 30 characters now."

The theater will use two complete casts of 30 actors each, ranging in age from 7 to 54. This will be only the second time the theater has staged the show, which includes elements both familiar and unfamiliar to fans of the Disney version.

The skeleton of the story, that a prince is under an enchantment to appear as a beast and a girl agrees to take her father's place as his prisoner, remains the same.

The prince "has a whole staff at the castle, and they are very much afraid," Crews says. "It's kind of like a 'Frankenstein' thing."

Setting: The beast takes refuge in the library of his castle, which becomes the main set piece for the show. To create the three locations used in the production, DreamWrights reached into antiquity for inspiration.

"We're using two periaktoi," Crews says.

Named from the Greek for their revolving motion, the three-sided scenery devices are on wheels and spin to reveal the background for each scene.

Themes: Although the power of love is naturally the centerpiece of the tale, "Beauty and the Beast" is also an action-packed story.

During the storm that brings Beauty's father to the castle, the "wind goes in every direction, so you get totally disoriented," Crews says.

DreamWrights’ production of Beauty and the Beast
Beauty and her beastly prince share a quiet moment in "Beauty and the Beast" at DreamWrights Youth & Family Theatre. (The Susquehanna Photographic)

A fight between the beast and Beauty's father provides some heart-pounding excitement, and "we have a big chase scene, which the kids love," between Beauty's siblings, Crews says.

Events are set in motion not by a witch, but by a gaggle of fairies.

"We have 10 fairies in ours, and there is a reason why," she teases.

If you go, be sure to take your flights of fancy along.

"For live theater, we need to be part of it," Crews says. "That's what our imaginations are for."

See the show

"Beauty and the Beast" runs May 3-19 at DreamWrights Youth and Family Theatre, 100 Carlisle Ave., York.

Shows start at 6:30 p.m. May 3, 4, 10, 11, 17 and 18, and at 2:30 p.m. May 4, 5, 11, 12, 18 and 19.

Tickets are $8 for general admission or $12 for reserved seating. The 2:30 p.m. May 11 show will be audio described for audience members with visual impairments and include a "touch tour" of the set starting at 1:30 p.m.

A special playlet and breakfast program designed for young children will be offered at 9 a.m. May 18. The event includes food, arts and crafts, a short scene from the play and more. Tickets are $10 and must be purchased in advance.

For more information, call (717) 848-8623 or visit www.dreamwrights.org.

- Reach Mel Barber at mbarber@yorkdispatch.com.