By PAM HARBAUGH
Theater patrons may wonder why they don’t see more of John Dwyer.
The respected community theater actor was lauded for his work in “Proof” at the Henegar Center and also “Over the River and Through the Woods” at Melbourne Civic Theatre.
But Dwyer has his priorities. And when it comes to the theater, his number one priority is the HNJ Players & Orchestra, the theatrical ministry of the Holy Name of Jesus Catholic Church in Indialantic. The reason, he says, is simple: “It’s wonderful.”
The group opens Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” on Saturday and Dwyer plays the role of Lumiere, the jaunty candelabra who leads a cast of anthropomorphic furniture and kitchen supplies in the musical’s big number, “Be Our Guest.”
“It really is a community,” Dwyer said. “It’s the equivalent of ‘My dad has a barn, let’s put on a show.’
“If you’re acting you’re probably changing scenery. Everyone pitches in. There are no egos. They’re just there to put on a good show.”
In fact, last Saturday, the cast spent eight hours painting scenery, said the show’s director, Terry Lynch.
And that’s the best part of the experience, she said. The hardest part is the challenge of putting on a show in a multi-purpose room with limited theatrical goodies, like a backstage and wing space.
Still, though, there are lights and scenery and costumes appropriate to the musical tale of a young girl, Belle, who finds herself the palace guest of a creature known as the Beast.
There also is a live orchestra, led by the church’s worship director, George Kobosko, the well-respected head of Holy Name’s music program.
And, everyone, including the musicians, the cast, crew and directors, volunteer their time.
The program began in 1995 when actress Muriel Girard, a most beloved and delightful fixture in Brevard’s community theater scene, approached Father Page, now retired, and put forth the idea of beginning a theater program.
He embraced the idea wholeheartedly, Lynch said, and opened with the musical “Godspell.”
Now, she said, the new pastor, Father Scott Circe, has shown great support. The shows they have produced include “Brigadoon,” “Guys and Dolls” and “Sound of Music.”
The program mounts about one show a year, sometimes two. Attention is given to a musical’s message and language.
“We have to choose things that are family friendly,” Lynch said. “We try to choose shows with a positive image as far as sacrifice, true love, that sort of thing. We are careful about verbiage. We do not do anything under our parish roof that might offend.”
The productions are so popular that they usually sell out with audiences numbering more than 300 per performance. In fact, the dinner theater performance of “Beauty and the Beast” has already sold out, although the idea of having a second dinner theater performance is currently being tossed around, Lynch said.
About half the cast of any production comes from the Holy Name of Jesus congregation. Others come from the community theater and don’t always include Christians.
The same ratio holds true for the audience.
The charm and congeniality of the cast, crew and audience is palpable, Lynch said. People gather, put in a lot of hours for a show they are thrilled to present to the community.
And the community, Dwyer said, loves it.
“Beauty and the Beast” runs Jan. 20 to 28 at Holy Name of Jesus Life Center, 3050 N. Highway A1A. Tickets are $14 in advance, and $16 at the door. Children’s tickets (10 years and younger) are $7 in advance and $9 at the door. Dinner tickets are $28 (call 321-794-5225 for reservations). For more information about the show, call 321-773-2783 during the weekday hours of 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays.