High school's ‘Beast’ promises to be a beaut

Special to The CambrianApril 4, 2013 

Turning the animated film, “Disney’s Beauty and the Beast” into a staged musical is a challenge, with a walking, talking candelabra, clock, teapot and wardrobe and dancing kitchen utensils, but Coast Union High School has met the challenge, said drama coach and director Kirk Henning.

With fanciful costumes, special effects and creative lighting, the show is a magical family friendly fantasy for all ages, he said, “And we have a few tricks up our sleeve.” But he didn’t want to give them away.

A live full orchestra will accompany the many songs and dance numbers by the cast and ensemble of high school actors and 14 middle school students. Randy Schwalbe conducts the orchestra, and harpist Penny Beavers returns to join it.

There is music throughout, under the dialogue, Henning explained. “The orchestra plays constantly.”
The songs, with music by Alan Menken and lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice, range from romantic to comical, with lively ensemble dance numbers.

At the heart of the fairy tale, of course, is a lovely, lonely girl imprisoned by a beast who is really a prince placed under a spell that can only be broken when he falls in love, and his love is returned. In this version, his household staff has been turned into enchanted objects.

Alex Zaragoza plays Belle, the beauty, and Maxx Rivera is the Beast.

Evan Wright is the villain Gaston, and Ariel Bruce is his bumbling sidekick Lefou. Jacob Wright is Lumiere, the candelabra; Kylie Castle is Cogsworth the clock; Bennett McManus is Mrs. Potts, the teapot; and Courtney Castle is her teacup son, Chip.

Mackenna Perryman is Belle’s mother Marcelle, and Katrina Cleave plays Babbette.

The 14 middle school students are an ensemble of villagers and dancing utensils, and they have a special role during the scene of wolves in the forest. “A surprise unique to our production,” Henning said.

Kit Hansen is vocal director, and Sonya Henning, the director’s daughter, is choreographer. She graduated from Coast Union and now teaches dance and acts on television in Southern California.
“Tigg Morales designed the amazing set,” Henning said. “We turn the gym into a theater.”

The cast began with improvisation, acting techniques and vocal coaching in the fall and began rehearsing in January. Coast Union doesn’t have a drama department, so theater is a self-sustaining extra-curricular activity, with funds coming from ticket sales and community support.

As an arts-minded community, Cambria has been supportive and made the shows possible, Henning said.

This will be the last year for the seniors in the play, and some may go on to study theater, but whether they do or not, performing is a valuable experience, he noted, giving students self-confidence and the ability to present themselves well. Coast Union productions have been an inspiration for a number of actors who have gone on to study theater and to be successful performers in regional theater.

‘Beauty and The Beast’

Presented by Coast Union High School Drama. 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays, April 5 to 7 and 12 to 14, CUHS gym, 2950 Santa Rosa Creek Road, Cambria. Tickets: Cambria Chamber of Commerce, 767 Main St.; 927-3624,       909-1514, www.cuhsdrama.com.

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