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Friday, December 2, 2022

Villager returns to stage after 20-year absence to take lead role in ‘Beauty and The Beast’

Pinky’s tale of time is about a woman who left musical theater two decades ago, only to return with a character called Belle.

The arc of Pinky’s own character includes theater, New York, night clubs, national tours, divorce, remarriage, a new family and office management. Her current act features a comeback on stage in The Villages.

RuthAnn 22Pinky22 Bigley as Belle and Tim Casey as The Beast
RuthAnn “Pinky” Bigley as Belle and Tim Casey as The Beast
Pinky as she likes to be called wears a colorful gold dress as Belle
Pinky as she likes to be called wears a colorful gold dress as Belle.

Belle, meanwhile, also endures a remarkable journey with heartbreak, joy, loss, romance and love.

The stories of RuthAnn “Pinky” Bigley and Belle will intersect on stage, April 5-7, in Savannah Center. That’s when The Villages Musical Theater production of Disney’s Broadway musical, “Beauty and The Beast” will be presented.

It is directed by Sue Schuler, and has a huge cast, including Tim Casey as the Beast; Bob Stehman as Lumiere; Bill Davis as LeFou; Billie Thatcher as Mrs. Potts; Tim Ruwart as Cogsworth and Dave Saxe as Gaston.

Here is a promotional video for the show:


Pinky has a lot in common with the character she portrays.
“Belle’s kind of a free-spirited girl and she wants adventure in her life,” said Pinky – who prefers to be called that.

The name goes back 56 years, when she was born in Stratford, Conn. She was the last of six children, and her father dubbed the kids, “my little Pinkies.” Most were delivered early and Pinky herself weighed just 4 pounds at birth.

Pinky as Belle with her stage father Bill McGaughey as Maurice
Pinky as Belle with her stage father Bill McGaughey as Maurice.

Eventually, the five other Pinkies moved on, but the youngest one never lost affection for the nickname Pinky.
“It just stuck with me,” she said. It also gives a singer a unique moniker, although Pinky admits she is not related to another singer called Pink.

Sometimes, when she performs in The Villages, her husband introduces her. His name is Ollie Schniederjans.
“He’s very supportive,” she said. “When I go on stage and he introduces me, I tell him, ‘just say Pinky.’” Her website is called pinky Sings!
She began singing as a child, and by 11, Pinky made a name for herself dressing up as the “Annie” musical character and singing “Tomorrow” at local charity events. She appeared on the Jerry Lewis Telethon, and began doing musicals throughout Connecticut.
She studied dance and acting in New York and on Broadway.
Eventually, she graduated to the professional stage and performed in the national touring company of “Les Misérables” and the International Tour of “Evita.”
Pinky also sang with the New York City Metropolitan USO Group and performed for U.S. troops. She sang the “Star Spangled Banner” at the Georgia Dome and other events.
During her 20s and early 30s, she was touring with shows, playing clubs, auditioning for Broadway and living the actor’s hectic, nomadic life.

Things changed. Pinky got divorced. About 15 years ago, she remarried and raised step-children. Instead of the stage, she worked as a manager for The American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

Then, about seven years ago, the kids were getting older and Pinky was getting the itch to get back to her entertainment roots. She kept her day job, but needed more.
“I felt I was missing something in my life,” she said. “I realized it was singing.”

So, Pinky started performing in clubs and charity events. She created one-woman shows, “Divas Through the Decades” “Lullaby of Broadway” “Holiday Celebration” and “Soul.”

Then, three years ago, she and her husband moved to The Villages. In October, 2020, Pinky played a sold out show at The Sharon. It was a turning point.

“So much of what I wanted to do came to fruition after that show,” she said. But the pandemic slowed everything down.
This year, Pinky reached for another quest to get back in a stage musical for the first time in nearly 20 years.

She remembered seeing the “Beauty and The Beast” on Broadway. “I had auditioned for it,” Pinky said.

It may be a fairy tale, but it has meaning for adults as well as children, Pinky believes. “It’s about transformation and imagination,” she said. “I think we need that these days.
“It’s nice to go out to a theater and get away from everyday life. Just take yourself out of life for a while.”

A large local cast will appear in Beauty and The Beast April 5 7 in Savannah Center
A large local cast will appear in “Beauty and The Beast” April 5 through 7 in Savannah Center.

Tim Casey, who plays the Beast, has been impressed with Pinky’s performance.

“She brings a great sensibility to Belle, capturing her feistiness, as well as her charm.”
The two have been rehearsing together for months, and Casey believes they are learning about the characters and each other.

“Each rehearsal we always find ways to show how their relationship evolves. They are such wonderful roles, and it has been a joy discovering them together. It‘s hard being ‘beastly’ towards Pinky at times but, I do have a job to do.”
The musical is deeper than the animated feature.

“It’s a story of seeing past the exterior of a person into his or her heart,” Casey said. “The characters in the musical have more emotional depth than the animated feature.
“Belle is more headstrong and determined, while The Beast is both more threatening and ultimately more sympathetic.  You get a better feel for the anguish of the house servants as they are slowly losing their grip on humanity.”
Still, it is based on a fairy tale, “and, in the end,  love does conquer all,” Casey said.

Pinky feels the same way and after 20 years away from the musical stage, she’s ready for the spotlight.
“It has been a pleasure working with the cast, and Sue Schuler,” she said. “Nobody is competing with anybody; we’re having fun. I can’t wait to get out there and see the faces in the audience, especially the children.”
Like Belle, Pinky can be a cool customer under pressure. “I’ve got butterflies, but I’m not nervous,” she said. “I’m just excited to get out there on stage.”
For Pinky, it’s almost like her own personal fairy tale and she loves being a part of it because, as she says, “we’re all kids at heart.”

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