BELOIT — There is nothing like the timeless tale of Beauty and the Beast. This iconic love story comes to the stage at West Branch High School Auditorium Friday-through-Sunday. This stellar performance brings you everything that you loved about the Disney animated classic and more. You are sure to be charmed and enchanted by this tale as old as time!
A traditional fairy tale published in France in the mid 18th-century, Beauty and the Beast, is an enduring story of love and friendship that has been translated into hundreds of versions worldwide. When Walt Disney Pictures released the animated feature film in 1991 with a score by composer Alan Menken and the late lyricist Howard Ashman, it was hailed as an instant classic with critics calling the music “worthy of a Broadway musical.”
The film went on to win Academy Awards for Best Song and Best Original Score and it made history as the only animated feature to ever be nominated for Best Picture. Given the power of the film’s story and music, the decision was made to bring Beauty and the Beast to the Broadway stage.
Disney Theatrical Productions assembled the creative team and worked hard to combine the strengths of the beloved film with the possibilities that only live theatre can offer. Linda Woolverton adapted her screenplay to the stage, adding new scenes to fill out the story. The Oscar-winning score was expanded to include several new songs by Menken and veteran lyricist Tim Rice. Beauty and the Beast opened at the Palace Theatre on April 18, 1994, played on Broadway for over 13 years, totaling 5,461 performances. Finishing its run at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, it ultimately became the seventh longest running musical in Broadway history.
The story revolves around a Prince living in a shining castle, who is visited one night by an old beggar woman who offers him a single rose in return for shelter from the bitter cold. Repulsed by her haggard appearance, the Prince turns the old woman away. The old woman’s ugliness melts away to reveal a beautiful enchantress who tells him he has no love in his heart.
Then in a flash, she turns him into a hideous beast and places a spell on the castle and all who live there. Ashamed of his monstrous form, the Beast conceals himself in his bewitched castle with his faithful staff: Lumiere, the love struck candlestick, Cogsworth the pompous clock, the kindly teapot, Mrs. Potts, and an inquisitive teacup named Chip.
To break the spell, the Beast must learn to love another and earn their love in return before the last petal falls from the Enchanted Rose. If not, he will be doomed to remain a Beast for all time.
Belle is a beautiful and intelligent young woman who lives with her eccentric inventor father, Maurice, in a small provincial town. Belle longs for a life of adventure, like those that she reads of in her books, but she seems destined to be the oddball of her quiet village instead. It seems the only hope she has of ever fitting in is to marry the ill-mannered, pompous Gaston, who has decided that Belle is the prettiest girl in the village and is therefore fit to be his wife.
But Belle just wants someone who understands her dreams and rebuffs Gaston’s crude advances. Later, lost in the woods on the way to the city, Maurice stumbles across the Beast’s spellbound castle. Upon finding her father, Belle offers herself to the Beast in return for the release of her father. The Beast accepts Belle’s offer and soon she meets the other inhabitants of the enchanted castle. Lumiere and his staff decide that Belle is their last chance for the spell to be broken. Throughout the rest of the show, they conspire to have Belle and the Beast fall in love… and that is exactly what happens. As in most Disney shows, there is a happy ending of prince and princess falling in love and getting married.
Senior Tessa Wells will portray Belle, the French country girl who everyone thinks is just simply odd. Wells, the daughter of Doug and Lona Wells, has been seen on the stage many times, but most recently as Katherine “Plumber” in Newsies. As Belle in this show, she gives a flawless performance of the character and is able to mesmerize the audience with her singing ability especially with the songs “Home” and “A Change in Me.”
Senior Nate Crick, a returnee to the stage, has secured the part of the Beast. Crick, son of Kevin and Tracy Crick, participates in all of the vocal ensembles, and is a member of the varsity football team. His emotional portrayal of the Beast is apparent when he sings the ballad “If I Can’t Love Her,” which closes Act One, leaving the audience at an emotional high.
The loving and motherly character of Mrs. Potts is played by freshman Julia Zamarelli. She has been seen on stage many times, but is most remembered as Widow Corney in our last production of Oliver! She is the daughter of John and Jennifer Zamarelli. Her rendition of the ever popular song “Beauty and the Beast” is simply breathtaking and provides the right nuance to the scene where Belle and the Beast fall in love.
Mario Chick, last seen on stage as The Artful Dodger in Oliver, will play the part of Lumiere, the fun-loving French candlestick. Mario is the son of Carmen Chick, and excels at music and academics. He is able to dazzle the audience with his performance in the biggest number in the show, “Be Our Guest.”
Sophomore Macey Stancato, one of the most seasoned actors at West Branch, will portray Cogsworth, the nervous but delightfully funny head of the enchanted castle. Macey, the granddaughter of Vicki Best, has been in every show at West Branch since she was in the fifth grade. Her rapier wit and comedic line delivery makes her a perfect choice to play the part of Cogsworth.
Sophomore Alexandrina Weingart, will be seen playing Babbette — the flirtatious French maid turned feather duster. She is the daughter of Brian and Eileen Weingart and has a list of stage credits too long to mention. Alex was seen last as Bet in the winter production of Oliver!
Fifth grader Alli Kanagy, daughter of David and Mikki Kanagy, once again lights up the stage with her portrayal of Chip — the small boy that is turned into a tea cup. Alli has been seen in many shows at West Branch but is most remembered for her role of Oliver Twist in Oliver!
Rounding out the cast of the enchanted objects is Kylie Dean who portrays Madame De La Grande Bouche the famous opera singer- turned wardrobe. She is the daughter of Scott and Tonya Dean. She was last seen as Mrs. Sowerberry in Oliver! Kylie provides a lot of the comic relief in the show especially when she is seen on the stage with the other enchanted characters.
Senior, Mitchell Sharp, who will portray the overbearing but handsome Gaston, performs the role eloquently. Not only does he look and act like the character with precision, but his booming voice and meticulous staging convinces the audience of his diverse talents. Mitchell is the son of Greg and Kristin Sharp and plans to major in business at YSU after high school.
Jeff Legros, the son of Steve and Karen Legros, will portray the nutty and hilarious role of Lefou. Jeff adds much of the energy needed for the large chorus numbers in the show.
Senior Anthony Lacivita, last seen as Spot Collins in the fall production of Newsies, plays the nutty but loveable part of Maurice, Belle’s father. Anthony, the son of Larry and Sunny Lacivita, is a well-seasoned actor and brings life to the scenes between Belle and her father. This is most apparent in his performance of the song “No Matter What.”
Junior Dylan Dailey, the son of Scott and Stephanie Daley, brings to life the character D’Arque the dark and disturbed caretaker from the insane asylum in the French village. Dylan’s performance is most believable when he joins cast members Mitchell Sharp and Jeff Legros in the song “Maison De Lunes.”
Rounding out the cast are the five women playing the Silly Girls who add so much comedy to the scenes with Gaston and Lefou. They are seniors Emma Jarvis and Jaylynn LaNave; sophomore Gabby Harrison, and freshmen Maddie Davis and Jillian Zamarelli.
The chorus members include: Cullen McKay, Dylan Daley, Andrew Phillips, Carter Holodnak, Landon Reichenbach, Joe Sprague, Kyle Hoopes, Jacob Brooks, Danny Harrison, Bethany Caruthers, Jess Hartzell, Katie Kent, Cheyenne Salsberry, Ambers Caruthers, Jillian Zamarelli, Shiann Schaefer, Alaya Kiser, Cami Grindley, Gabby Harrison, Makenzie Walsh, Emma Jarvis, Maddie Davis, Jaylynn LaNave, Hannah Jones, Jocelynn Woods, Ruby Love, Mayze Leask, Rianna Gillingham, Marah Smith, Macie Minich, Tori McKay, Essence Hall, Kaitlin Kidd, Mariah Sexton, Kylie Mutton, Cassidy Loy, Gracie Stillion, Kaylyn Hicks, Hannah Townsend, Lexi Townsend, Morgan Brown and Ella Scofinsky.
The cast and crew of Beauty and the Beast include over 100 students and volunteers. Audience members will love the large “glitzy” chorus numbers which include: “Belle,” “Gaston,” “Be Our Guest,” and “The Finale” just to name a few. Characters that perform solos in the musical have been coached by local voice teacher Bill Ambert. Music director and artistic director John Zamarelli has worked hard on the musical numbers. Dance coordinator Tessa Wells has transformed the stage into a whirlwind of stage movements, gymnastic feats and all styles of Broadway dance steps. This is most notable in the chorus number “Be Our Guest” — the show’s biggest production number where the cast members transform into dancing silverware, dinner plates, napkins and household kitchen objects.
The costumes, designed by John Zamarelli, are lavish and colorful and crews of parents have been working to complete them for the past two months. Parents and students created the unusual costumes worn by the main characters and DC Theatricks of New York will be providing some of the outfits needed for the chorus. Beast and special make-up and latex face applications have been acquired to make the Beast and the other characters look as true to the original Broadway characters as possible.
The set, designed and built by Joe Courtwright, Mitchell Sharp, Reed Everett and Wyatt Courtwright, is exquisite and fits the needs of the production’s scenes and musical numbers. The audience is taken to a French village, Belle’s country home, an Enchanted Castle, a scary forest, a French tavern and to the roof top of the Beasts castle. Painting crews have been working on the set for several months while many fathers and community members are working late into the evenings to finish what might be called a theatrical “work of art.”
The technical directors for the show are Eric Waggoner and Victor Trimmer. They will be running 36 wireless microphones and making sure all the special effects are executed as planned. Special effects include the use of smoke machines, bubble machines, confetti cannons, flying equipment and a special florescent remote control rose. Over 50 hours was spent setting over 250 light cues that are required by the production.
Show dates and times for Beauty and the Beast are as follows: Friday April 26, 7:30 p.m.; , Saturday, April 27 at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.; and, Sunday, April 28th at 2 p.m. The annual dinner theater will be held in conjunction with the show on Friday with dinner being served at 6 p.m. and the show beginning at 7:30 pm. Those attending the dinner theater will truly “Be Our Guests” when they sit down to one the most elegant dinners around.
The menu will consist of: Belle’s Stuffed Chicken Breasts, The Master’s Slow Roasted fillet of Beef, Lumiere’s Stuffed Shells, Gaston’s Parsley Red Skin Potatoes, Cogsworth’s Timely Tossed Salad, Babbette’s Best Rolls, D’Arque’s Devilish Desserts, and Mrs. Pott’s Special Brewed Coffee and Tea. Tickets for the dinner, which also includes admission to the show, are $25. Lorrie Weingart of Salem will be the chef for the evening.
An Enchanted Lunch with Belle & Friends will be offered in conjunction with the Saturday matinee show. The menu includes: chicken fingers, hot dogs, chips, fresh fruit, cupcakes and fruit juice. The lunch is designed for children and each child will be photographed with their favorite character from the cast. Face painting and other activities will be planned for the afternoon. Tickets for the lunch are priced at $15 and include the lunch and the matinee performance. The lunch begins at noon and the show begins at 2 p.m. Adults are welcome to attend the lunch for the same ticket price.
Tickets for all the shows will be available at the High School during the school day or by calling the box office at 330-938-4442. Please leave a message and one of the parents in charge of box office will return all calls. All seats for the six performances are reserved and priced at $12 for adults and $10 for students. Come and enjoy this tale as old as time!
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