A Q&A with Tori Stepanek, or Belle, in Capital City Productions’ presentation of ‘Beauty and the Beast’
The popularity of the timeless classic fairy tale has led to sold out dinner and dessert theater performances of Capital City Productions’ upcoming “Beauty and the Beast.”
Even though tonight, this weekend’s shows and productions Aug. 17-20 have no remaining tickets, guests can still purchase tickets for production-only shows at 7 p.m. Aug. 24-25 and at 1:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. Aug. 26 at Shikles Auditorium.
So many seasoned actors and some newcomers have practiced tirelessly to put on Disney’s stage adaption, learn to fly with professional flying effects company, Vertigo, made extravagant and detailed sets, and acquired beautiful, ornate costumes from legendary Costume World, Inc.
One of the play’s lead characters, Belle, truly shows young ladies to be themselves, be strong and independent, and learn and teach acceptance, friendship and compassion for others in “Beauty and the Beast.” For seasoned Mid-Missouri actor Tori Stepanek, playing Belle has been a dream come true. “Beauty and the Beast” is her favorite Disney film, and she is excited to bring Belle to life on stage for children and adults.
Read more about Stepanek and how she has loved being Belle, as well as being a part of the Capital City Productions’ family.
Q: What drew you to theater?
Stepanek: My mom always used to have soundtracks to everything that she saw at the theater in the car. I just sang along with her, and she finally said, ‘I think you’ve played enough at home. Let’s get you involved.’ I have been in two or three shows since then. … I have been doing theater since I was in fourth grade. Mary Poppins was my first show with Capital City Productions (a couple of years ago). It has always been a passion.
Q: What have been some of your favorite shows you have done?
Stepanek: “Rock of Ages” here last year was really fun. I got to play Sherry, and that was different because it was the more rock and roll songs. That is not really my style at all. That was really fun. I was Audrey in “The Little Shop of Horrors.” I was Bonnie in “Anything Goes” in college.
Q: Have you ever performed in a production of “Beauty and the Beast before?”
Stepanek: I have never played this character, but I have been in “Beauty and the Beast” twice before (community productions); it was in St. Louis, I grew up there. I have played every other minor character – a wolf, a napkin and all that stuff.
Q: Do you want to be Belle when you auditioned?
Stepanek:” Yes. Normally I would accept other roles, because I’m not that kind of person. But whenever you have done it twice, it’s like I want the lead this time. … I was super excited to get this role. I would walk around holding books, pretending I was Belle. So my mom is really excited, too. That was my favorite when I was little. I used to pretend I was all the princesses anyway, so I’ve been prepping for this for awhile.
Q: What have you done to put your own twist on your character?
Stepanek: Being in this community of theater here in Jefferson City, everybody is so funny, nice and we are all friends anyway. Brandon Sankpill, who is the Beast, is one of my best friends in real life. We play it more as a friendship than a passionate romance, which you can see in the way we act in the show. It has been fun.
Q: Is there a bit of pressure of representing Belle with the popularity of the animated film and new live action film?
Stepanek: There is so many different ways you can play her, because Emma Watson played it differently than how she was in the animated version and different the person who played it on Broadway. Everyone has their own take on it, so people appreciate their version of the character. I play it more sassy than other princesses.
Q: Do you fly in the production?
Stepanek: I do not. I flew in Mary Poppins. I miss it, it was fun, but it is one less stress to worry about. I think being on stage almost the entire stage and having to fly would be a little much. It is a little relieving (laughter).
Q: What is one of your favorite parts of the show?
Stepanek: When Belle walks in and sings “Little Town,” that is an iconic moment. I know once that starts I’m going to have a bunch of butterflies. … Everyone I perform with on stage is fun.
Q: You mentioned “Little Town” is one of your favorite moments in the show; is it also your favorite song to sing?
Stepanek: I would say “Home” is my favorite.
Q: What do you for a living?
Stepanek: I’m a meteorologist for KOMU, a local NBC affiliate. I interned for four years and this is my third year full-time. I went to school at Mizzou. I got a major in atmospheric science and a minor in theater. That has what has been really fun when people come up to me at shows and say, “I had no idea you were our weather girl or meteorologist.” It is fun to let people see a different side to you.
Q: Are your colleagues coming out to see the show?
Stepanek: There is another gentleman in the show that work’s for our competitor’s station. It will be fun to have tables of the two different stations watching it together (laughter). We call them competitors, but we all know each other well.
Q: What are looking forward to with the interaction with the audience, especially the children?
Stepanek: I am looking forward (to interacting with the audience after the show) it. I didn’t expect that from Mary Poppins really, but that was one of the best parts. The kids that were too shy. You felt like you worked at Disney; after the show is over you are not really done. Do you stay in character, are they old enough to know, do they know it is someone different? It is fun. … It is actually a lot more rewarding than I thought it would be.
Q: What do you like about doing theater at Capital City Productions?
Stepanek: It is just a huge family. I have lived in the Mid-Missouri area for about six years now and they have all become family. I know that is typical of a lot of theaters; everybody looks out for each other. I never have the feeling, oh I have to go to rehearsal tonight. It is worth it.
Tickets are $20 per person for the four remaining production-only shows Aug. 24-26. To order tickets or for more information, call 573-681-9612 or visit CapitalCityProductions.org.
Belle and fellow characters from Capital City Productions’ “Beauty and the Beast” will also host a community tea party from noon-1:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 19 at Shikles Auditorium. For more information about this event, the remaining season or the 2018 CCP season, visit CapitalCityProductions.org or follow them at Facebook.com/CCPJeffCity.
Read more about “Beauty and the Beast” here.