Behind the scenes of ‘Beauty and the Beast’

The members of the drama department have been buzzing and practicing for months in preparation for this year’s spring musical “Beauty and the Beast.” Their creation finally came to life beginning on March 9 and ending with a bang on March 12. The show consisted of many new faces mixed in with the old.  New drama teacher Andrew Snider contributed his fresh ideas as well.

The play closely follows the “tale as old as time” that many know and love enhanced with elaborate costumes and perfected dance numbers. The audience was taken on the enchanted journey of Belle (played by senior Caroline Poole), the non-conforming daughter of an eccentric inventor (played by senior Ethan McNulty), who is the talk of the town. People whisper about Belle’s odd behavior as well as her father’s. However, despite the rumors, Belle is still pursued for her hand in marriage by the town’s greatest stud, Gaston (played by senior Rollin Rockett).

Aelise Gagliano
The village girls fawn over Gaston as he forms an evil plan to receive Belle’s hand in marriage.

Unamused by Gaston’s reputation and cockiness, Belle turns down the offer most girls would swoon over, leaving Gaston baffled and angry. However, Belle has more important issues to worry about once her father gets lost in the forest on his way to the town fair to present his latest invention. She decides to go look for him and finds him locked up in the Beast’s (played by senior Kade Smith) castle.

Belle refuses to let her father remain a prisoner and convinces the Beast to take her instead. The Beast takes her up on her offer in hopes that she’ll be able to break the spell bestowed upon him by an enchantress. The enchantress disguised herself as an old, helpless woman and when the beast, once a prince, refused to provide her refuge, she turned him into a monster and his servants into inanimate objects. Ever since then they had been looking for a way to break the spell and Belle turned into their one and only chance. And so ensues the magnificent story of adventure and true love.

The audience, filled with families and little girls dressed as princesses, watched in amazement as cast members danced and sang and moved in perfect sync. However, none of this was as easy as they made it seem. Months of practice and hard work went into the making of this musical.  

The drama department held auditions in October and began rehearsing for the show by the first of November, bringing in freshmen and lesser-seen faces to the stage and crew. “This has been a very fun experience especially since there were a lot of freshmen and new people in the cast that aren’t necessarily heavily involved in the drama department,” senior crew member Devin Fourqurean said. “Those people have really been improving and shining, and I am glad I got to meet and work with them.”

Rehearsal usually ran until 6 p.m. each night except for the week before the show, jokingly called “Hell Week,” where the cast and crew stayed until around 10 or 11 p.m. each night.

Sure the audience saw the wonder that happened on stage, but back stage is where the real magic happened, starting with the monstrosity that was their set. They rented the set from community member Michael Vance, and when it first arrived, it was just a bunch of giant pieces jumbled together that the cast and crew had to put together themselves. Fourqurean described it as “a giant game of tetris,” trying to figure out how everything fit together. And putting it up meant having to take it down afterwards, which was just as tricky.

Aelise Gagliano
There were many elaborate dance numbers in “Beauty and the Beast” such as the one pictured here, “Be Our Guest.”

There were over twenty pages of set directions for the stage managers and crew to carry out. Not to mention the few minor malfunctions the crew dealt with such as the roof falling off the top of the well or Lumiere, played by sophomore Clarence White, getting a bloody nose during the Sunday show. However, thanks to the excellent stage management, the audience never even noticed.

Not only was the set a great deal of work but so were the costumes and makeup. The characters of “Beauty and the Beast” called for hours of preparation and teamwork. The costume of the candlestick, Lumiere, weighed pounds in sequins and glitter not including the wig and other accessories. “Each of the candles on my arms were a couple pounds each,” White said. “It took a little over an hour to get my makeup and clothes on, without the wig.”

Other characters such as Mrs. Potts (junior Ginni Gray), Chip (fourth grader Jacob Ramsey), Madam de la Grande Bouche (junior Jo Dearman), and Cogsworth (senior Alex Davis) had just as difficult pieces to their costumes, coming together to create the magic bestowed on the audience. Chip’s costume seemed the most confusing and difficult. It was a trick box with a slanted piece of foam and a mirror making it look empty. He had to sit on the inside of the box and keep the cup attached to his head.

The Beast had the most complex makeup considering they had to make a high school boy look like a furry monster. Fourqurean was in charge of transforming his face. “For Kade’s mask we would apply Spirit Gum, which is basically like a glue for prosthetics and makeup, to his masks and someone would have to sit with it for a good 15-20 minutes, waiting for it to become tacky,” Fourqurean said. “Then we would take dark foundation to blend his neck in with his mask.”

Not only were these costumes heavy and complicated but the amount of dancing and moving around the cast had to do with these costumes made it even trickier to pull off. “The dances were really hard because of my elaborate costume,” White said. “It took months of preparation just to adjust to the costume during choreography.” The ensemble and the dance team were largely responsible for the background singing and dancing the audience saw, adding extravagance to the scenes.

Aelise Gagliano
The Beast is finally transformed back into a human and rejoices with Belle by his side.

Although it was a lot of preparation and hard work, it all paid off the weekend of the show. Faculty, students, and almost any other community member who saw the musical were amazed with the over-the-top performance and extravagance of the show, especially the little kids. Snider has had a common theme of reaching out to the family and children of the community starting with the “Junie B. Jones” play back in December. This time around, he did not disappoint with yet another family-friendly performance.

Snider added a new element to the musical with something he called “Dessert with Belle.” It was a chance for families and their children to eat some treats at the school before meeting their favorite characters from the musical. This event happened at 1 p.m. before the Saturday night show. “Kids, and kids at heart can come and get a dessert, play some Beast Bingo, get your face painted, and take pictures with some of your favorite ‘Beauty and the Beast’ characters,” Snider said. This was an interesting twist that had never been done before at Starr’s Mill, turning out to be a huge success.

Snider is a huge Disney fan himself and even worked at Disney World in Orlando, Fla., which explains his innovative ideas over the course of this production. Snider really switched things up and surprised everyone with the extravagance of “Beauty and the Beast.” Some even say that it may be the best musical Starr’s Mill has produced yet.

I thought Beauty and the Beast would be a great first musical to direct at Starr’s Mill,” Snider said. “It’s a musical that both the students and community was very excited about especially with the new movie opening up the weekend after our show.”