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POTR cast prepares to dazzle with Disney

The opening night jitters are only a day away now. “Don’t Miss the Magic,” the 2018 installment of “Putting on the Ritz,” opens tomorrow night at the Ritz Theatre.

The 48 youth and adults and 22 children who have been putting in overtime at rehearsals the past week are ready to bring an all-singing, all-dancing spectacular to the historic downtown theater’s stage. This year is a return to very popular theme first produced in 2011, featuring beloved songs from a number of Disney productions, including “Tangled,” “Pocahantas,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “Aladdin,” “The Lion King,” “The Little Mermaid” and more, all with fresh new twists.

Time has flown by in the months they’ve been preparing for the production, cast members say. It’s been spent memorizing lyrics and mastering harmonies, learning choreography, getting measured and fitted for their costumes and keeping up with all those accessories.

“I can’t believe it’s already show week,” POTR veteran Jessica Bell says. “It seems as if we just started rehearsals!”

Bell says her favorite number is definitely “Under the Sea” from “The Little Mermaid” (“It’s my favorite song to perform in and my favorite costume”).

Another seasoned POTR performer, Steve Norman, also considers  “Under the Sea” a top pick, saying that lead vocalist Joseph Longmire is “going to kill that number in best way possible.”

“Jennie Hamilton’s number from ‘Beauty and the Beast’ in another favorite of mine. She does a great job,” Norman says. “And Vicki Burt is another one of my all-time favorite performers.”

As for powerhouse performer Burt, who appears on stage with daughter Kalee, her favorite part of the POTR experience is “all the friendships.”

“We really are like a family and there’s no other family quite like it,” Burt says. “And it’s all the talent that Greenville has—especially in the kiddos. Honestly, what’s not to love?”

Speaking of “kiddos,” cast member Stacey Edwards also shares the stage with her youngest son, Hollis. And she’s found herself overwhelmed by the showmanship he’s exhibiting this year.

“I’ve always thought [oldest son] Simon would be the one who found  the stage, but I think I’ve underestimated Hollis,” Edwards says. “He’s never really been much into performing, but’s he’s worked so hard and landed one of the best parts as Simba. Seeing him come into his own has been my favorite part of preparing for the show this year.”

The Ritz Kids, cast members agree, have at least a couple of real showstoppers in this year’s production.

“The kids are fantastic. Everyone is going to love their numbers,” says Joni Thomas, who serves as both an on-stage performer and works behind the scenes as a show seamstress. And she can’t wait for everyone to see this year’s crop of colorful costumes take center stage.

“I especially love my costumes for Lumiere (Jennie Hamilton) and Sebastian (Joseph Longmire). And “Under the Sea” is absolutely my favorite number!” Thomas enthuses.

“Don’t Miss the Magic!” is this Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights at 7:30 p.m. at the Ritz Theater. Doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets are $20 for adults, $15 for students and will be available at the box office.

The annual musical fundraiser for the Greenville Area Arts Council brings together talents from all facets of the community, entertaining their audiences as they raise monies to help bring three to four professional productions to their hometown theater each fall and winter.