‘Beautiful’ — a tale of transformation

HOUGHTON – Most everyone knows of the wonder and spectacle that Cirque du Soleil shows can bring, now residents of the Copper Country and beyond can experience “Beautiful,” a cirque-style show that will be premiering next week at the Rozsa Center.

“Beautiful” blends together the special effects of Cirque du Soleil with the modern musical to create the story of Beautiful, a caterpillar that turns into a butterfly. The show will utilize flying and other theatrical devices to tell its story.

The show was co-created by Jennifer Kelly, who also serves as a creative producer and director, and Jason Whicker, who is also an aerial choreographer.

Kelly said that with the help of Whicker, she was able to hone down the story and get to the roots of what it was all about, which is the hero’s journey of Beautiful.

“I was dreaming it, I was breathing it,” Kelly said. “It all came together very fast.”

The initial idea came to Kelly while she was at a butterfly garden in St. Louis and the docent told her that most caterpillars live their entire life on one leaf.

“I remember thinking, ‘What if she wants to see the world? What if she wants to see another leaf?'”

Kelly also considers the show a coming of age story.

“It’s a woman’s transformative journey,” she said. “It’s about how we’re either paralyzed by (change) or transformed by it, but ultimately if we embrace our own hero story, we’ll become transformed.”

Part of the challenge of creating the show was trying to get the story across without having characters speak. Although there is a voice over in the show, no one else has dialogue.

“I think that allows the audience to fully experience (the show) and emote,” Kelly said. “The second we start talking, the person listening puts on their intellectual brain, but if it’s just music or just visuals, you can feel so much more strongly.”

Kelly also wants audiences to walk away feeling for the character of Beautiful.

“(I want them to) feel empathy for that character,” she said.

The character of Beautiful will be played by two actresses – Kristen Noonan and Nicole Conley.

Noonan has been working on and off with both Kelly and Whicker for about three years, but it wasn’t until recently that she received the script for the full-length version of the show. The version that will be performed at the Rozsa Center is only one act and will run for about 50 minutes.

“I was able to offer a little creative input,” Noonan said.

She was also able to change the ending of the show, which made it less darker.

Part of what Noonan has enjoyed the most about the show was the ability to be an instructor, as well as a lead performer.

“I have a passion for teaching, so I’ve been enjoying being able to connect with the cast more in that way and the crew.”

“Beautiful”?will run June 19, 20 and 21 at the Rozsa Theatre. Tickets range from $18 to $32 for adults and $8 to $16 for kids 12 and under. To purchase tickets, visit rozsa.mtu.edu or call 487-2073.