“It was so wonderful to put on a live show with a real audience again, and this was the perfect cast to work with,” said Performing Arts Teacher Andrew Tyson, the production’s musical director, conductor and director. “The students were all supportive of one another and they truly worked together as an ensemble during this entire process. They showed up each and every day with smiles on their faces, ready to work.”
“Not only did these students put on an amazing performance, but they learned and practiced skills like cooperation, creative thinking, and communication,” added Performing Arts Teacher Lindy Toczko, who served as assistant director, stage manager, vocal coach and costume designer. “Not everyone realizes that every role, no matter how small, is important in a musical. It’s the ensemble, members gossiping, buying pies, and silently arguing over the price of a fish – that is what really makes a scene come to life.”
Eighth-grader Kayla Sanon, who took a star-turn as Belle, tackled three big numbers and showed great range of emotion as her character went from provincial village girl to courageous and empathetic heroine. “My favorite part of the experience was the strong sense of community created among our cast and crew. Everyone helped one another to be better individually and this teamwork translated into a better end result. I felt very supported and knew that it was a safe place to try to improve.”
In the role of Mrs. Potts, eighth-grader Anna Zhuperina effortlessly sang the musical’s titular song while Belle and The Beast waltzed their way to love in a tale as old as time.
Seventh-graders Lillian Kanter who played the marvelously goofy village lothario, Gaston, and Jack Beauclair who played his side-kick LeFou, had several musical numbers together and enjoyed “camping up” their performances.
“It was a lot of fun to play such a broad character,” said Lillian who wore her hair in a male pompadour style and did a lot of muscle flexing. The pair worked well in tandem adding laugh-out-loud elements of physical comedy to their shared scenes.
“One of the most fun parts of putting on a musical is seeing the creativity that each student brings to their character,” said Ms. Toczko. “Although each character is scripted with certain traits, Mr. Tyson and I encourage the students to incorporate their own ideas, whether that be a backstory, a strut or different accent. It is a proud moment when a student takes ownership of their character.”
“It wasn’t difficult to memorize the lines, to sing the songs or even to play a male character,” said Lillian during a break between performances. “What I found challenging were the transitions, but they got faster and easier with practice.”
Jack agreed that while comfortable with being onstage, there were some behind-the-scenes moments that he hadn’t anticipated. “The technical aspects of the production were an unexpected challenge. For example, getting the lav mics – which were taped onto my skin – off after each of the performances was surprisingly painful, but a small price to pay. I really liked everything else about it.”
In addition to Kayla (Belle), Jack (LeFou), Lillian (Gaston) and Anna (Mrs. Potts), cast members included Aubry Grant (Maurice), Daphne Upson (Chip), Ekaterina Bank (Silly Girl, Narrator), Opal Thompson (Babette), Addison McNear (Cogsworth), Caroline Coniglio (Ensemble), Consuelo Bowman (Madame de la Grande Bouche), Daley Keogh (Lumière), Harry Jellinek (The Beast), Julia Coniglio (Silly Girl, Narrator), Lillian Back (Silly Girl, Narrator), and Simeran Samra (Monsieur d'arque, Bookseller).
“Whenever we come to the end of a musical production there are a lot of emotions going around,'' continued Ms. Toczko. “The students are always excited to finally be performing, but also sad that it is over. Students that might have only been acquaintances across different grade levels become cast members, and then by the end they are an amazing group of friends. Together they learn to communicate a story through spoken text, but also through song, facial expressions, body language and they do it as a team.”
Additional faculty support was provided by Associate Performing Arts Teacher Brian Muller on piano; School Librarian Mary Ann Lansdale on costumes and stage management; Upper School Teacher and Advisor Elizabeth Carroll on rehearsals, costumes, sets, hair & makeup, and backstage management during the shows; Director of Safety and Security Josh Ziac on the sound board; Visual Arts Teacher Karen Wappler on backstage management and scenery; and Visual Arts Teacher Chris Lawler on sets. Additional musicians included Dimitri Moderbacher (bass) and Jason Holmes (drums) and the light board was operated by Brenna Pérez.