The Disney classic "Beauty and the Beast" was first performed as a Ross Music Theatre summer production in 2005. It was so popular the long-running Merrillville theater company brought it back the following year. In both years, cast members included young brothers Jacob and Lucas Reinhart.
Lucas Reinhart was 5 years old when he was cast as the Footstool, while Jacob Reinhart was 8 when he was cast as Chip.
The "tale as old as time" has returned for the first time to Reinhart Auditorium since then this summer and so have the Reinhart brothers — only this time in leading roles. Jacob Reinhart, now 20, is the Beast, and Lucas, about to turn 17, is Lumiere.
A picture was floating around of the brothers in costume from the first "Beauty and the Beast" alongside their mother, Melinda Reinhart, who played Mrs. Potts in 2005-06 and reprises the role this year.
"It's like you blink," Melinda Reinhart said. "It's hard to believe it's been 12 years. Both of them have matured and grown up in theater."
Melinda Reinhart said that when they were little, her sons were mostly interested in hanging out at the theater because it's where their friends and family were. It's the circle of life, she said, because when her husband, Mike Reinhart, who is directing "Beauty and the Beast," was growing up, it was the same thing for him.
"If you wanted to see Dad you had to be part of the summer show," she said.
In Mike Reinhart's case "Dad" was Jerauld Reinhart, who founded what was first known as Ross Music Summer Theatre in 1964. For more than 50 years, RMT has been performing shows at the theater named after Jerauld Reinhart. That is a lot of years and a lot of memories for the Reinhart family. When it comes to "Beauty," one of Jacob Reinhart's memories of playing Chip was falling asleep during late rehearsals. He also pretended to be the Beast.
And now he is.
"When I was younger, never in a million years I thought I'd have a singing part," he said.
Jacob started singing early in elementary school until a fellow student told him that he couldn't sing, Melinda Reinhart said. So he stopped. But when he became a freshman at Merrillville High School he decided to join choir. The teacher told him, "You're going to be like everyone else" in the class. That teacher would have to be harder on him because the teacher was his mom.
Melinda Reinhart, who currently teaches choir at MHS, said her son also took voice lessons all through high school and is now a voice major in college.
"He's come a long way in a short amount of time," she said.
Jacob said when he looks at the photo of Lucas and him with their mom during the first "Beauty and the Beast" that "it doesn't feel as time has moved."
"It just feels like, 'Oh man, puberty happened,'" he said.
He said his and Lucas' personalities were close to what they are today.
"We're the same, we just have more experience under us," he said.
Jacob Reinhart, who will be a sophomore at St. Mary of the Woods College near Terre Haute, Indiana, said this year's show (like many before it) means a lot of time spent at the theater with his family and friends. Family dinners are held at Old Chicago with the cast.
"I'm having a lot of fun with it," he said.
Lucas Reinhart said after playing the Footstool at the age of 5 he never thought that big as far as playing Lumiere. He said the music from the show is nostalgic because it reminds him of being at the theater every day those two summers.
"It's different, though, because it's different people," he said. "The biggest thing is I wasn't really involved with the show then. This time I'm involved more so it's really different."
Lucas Reinhart said he and his older brother are just cast mates "like everyone else."
"It's cool to see how much we've grown," he said. "Our voices have matured so much. He stopped singing but freshman year he came back and now has this big operatic voice. It's just really cool to see him play the Beast."
Lucas Reinhart, a junior at MHS who wants to study screenwriting and film directing in college, said among his memories of those early "Beauty and the Beast" productions was "having a huge little kid crush on the girl who played Belle."
Mike Reinhart often has acted onstage alongside his sons (and his wife — while often directing at the same time). This summer he's sticking to directing only.
"To see them both on stage together with their mom is thrilling," he said.