By Shimla Rahman
“We wanted to create a world where magic can happen, where love can transform the world”. -Mr. Tom Kirkpatrick
Behind the Curtains: Beauty and the Beast
PHOTO BY THERESA NGUYEN MIRROR STAFF
Since their last production of “The Elephant Man,” Van Nuys High School’s Actors in Action continued their theme of fully appreciating someone for their personality and not their physical appearance by bringing the spectacular film “Beauty and the Beast” to life.
This impressive production was a collaboration between the theater, vocal, and dance departments, the stage crafts and design crew, and the live concert production team.
The show was staged in the Donna Hubbard auditorium on March 16-18, and 23-25.
Preparing since the first week of December, the acting troupe worked extremely hard for countless hours in rehearsals almost everyday after school for three months.
One of the great challenges of producing any play is to find which actor is fit for a specific role. The audition process was where auditioners were given a dance and scene to perform in front of directors which the auditioners have never met before. Auditioners also had to prepare a song that showed their creative abilities.
Actors did not audition for specific parts. Instead, the directors determined their role based on their specific talents and abilities on stage. This play had a 40-student cast, which is rather large for a school production.
Without the serenades of the orchestra it would have been impossible to “create an emotional environment,” states Music Director, Mr. Robert Eisenhart. “It’s the actor’s job to create the emotion, our job is to support [it]”.
Recreating the original melody from the classic movie was definitely a challenge since there were around 384 pages of music in the conductor’s book. The orchestra members gathered four days a week to practice from 3:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. “It was worth it.” commented Mr. Eisenhart.
“Beauty and the Beast” is a magical tale that reveals the importance of treasuring someone from within, rather than basing a judgement on appearance alone.
A spoiled prince, played by Junior Ian Foster, refuses to provide shelter to an enchantress disguised as a helpless crippled woman, and is consequently cursed by being transformed into a hideous beast. The spell can only be reversed if he finds his true love—Belle.
Belle, portrayed by Senior Olivia Rodriguez, is a book loving girl who is constantly harassed by the brainless Gaston, played by sophomore Darian Calderon, who is insistent on marrying her.
After she refuses Gaston’s hand in marriage, Belle goes on a quest to find her lost father Maurice, played by Jacob Molder, who is entrapped in the Beast’s castle.
She is appalled at finding all the residents of the castle also affected by the enchantress’ spell and transformed into objects.
The astonishing and elaborate costumes, which were rented, proved to be trying for many of the actors. According to Actor Vincent Macias who played Cogsworth, “dancing in a box” was definitely a challenge. However, through many rehearsals, the players adjusted to their costumes and were able to create a breathtaking performance.
Much of the play takes place in and around the castle, where Belle was guided around by the clock Cogsworth, and the candle Lumiere, portrayed by Senior Jacob Zelonky.
Stagecraft designed and built all of the sets.
The castle was “the most involved set we had to [design and craft]; it’s bigger and [we had] to put a lot more [effort making] it since it’s where most of the action takes place,” said Mr. Tom Kirkpatrick, stagecrafts teacher. “We wanted to create a world where magic can happen; where love can transform the world—very magical in essence.”
Eventually, Belle finds her way to the dungeon, where her father is imprisoned.
Wanting him released, Belle replaces him as The Beast’s prisoner, and agrees to remain in his residence forever.
Although she is shocked at first by his ruthless actions, Belle eventually discovers the man behind the beast as they spend more time together.
They fall in love, and the castle’s dwellers are filled with the hope that she will break the spell with true love’s kiss, making them all human again.
Meanwhile, Gaston is outraged that Belle does not want to marry him, so he schemes to put Belle’s dad in an asylum because he claims to have seen a beast.
In his castle, Belle and the Beast share a dance, choreographed by dance teachers Ms. Reesa Partida and Ms. Dianne Hula. Actor Foster describes the dance as “pure and romantic.”
“The challenging part of the choreography was keeping it fresh and true to Disney’s dreamy spirit but also making it relevant to today’s times and relating it to current events while showing the love and innocence [that] Disney captures so effortlessly,” said Ms. Hula.
After the dance, the Beast sympathizes with Belle’s concerns about her father and lets her leave the castle forever to be with him.
Belle arrives in her village and sees her dad being taken away to the asylum. She begs Gaston to convince the doctor to let him go.
Gaston bribes Belle to marry him, kissing her while she slaps him.
“[This] scene was crazy, said actress Olivia Rodriguez. “The whole scene is written out in directions in the script but as actors, it was all about timing to get it right and… that was not easy.”
Belle validates her father’s claim that the Beast is indeed real and conveys to her fellow villagers that he is lovable and kind.
Gaston is infuriated that Belle has developed feelings for a beast rather than himself, so he embarks on a voyage to kill him.
In their duel, the Beast shows Gaston mercy, not killing him because of Belle’s pleading. But Gaston stabs the Beast in the back—literally.
“With Gaston, you get to really see how much his character changes from a lovable idiot to a man with pure hatred in his heart,” commented actor Darian Calderon.
With the little strength the Beast has left, he manages to push Gaston off of a cliff, before he dies from his wounds. Belle weeps over the Beast’s body and confesses her love for him.
The enchantress, played by Siri Yotpimpa, reappears and a transformation scene occurs. “It’s a ballet duet between two characters that represent Belle and The Beast. It has a lot of technique in it and it’s very beautiful,” said Ms. Hula.
“Yotpimpa is our most featured dancer and quite a stand out”, said Ms.Partida.
After the dance, the spell is broken. The Beast reverts back to his human form, as does everyone else in the castle. Belle, overjoyed, shares a true love with the Beast through kiss. They live happily ever after.
By all measures, this play was one of the most successful performances ever staged at Van Nuys High School. The music, dance, singing, sound, lighting, costumes, stagecraft, and acting all together made for an extravaganza that left audiences mesmerized.
The main cast members Calderon, Foster, and Rodriguez, all agree that the show on March 24 was their favorite because of audience’s exuberant reactions and visible excitement.
“The wonderful thing about live theater is that the other member of the cast is the audience,” explains Mr. Randy Olea, the head of the school’s theater department. “Their reactions add strength and energy to the production,”
At VNHS, musicals are generally the more successful productions. Foster, Rodriguez, and Calderon are all part of the vocal department, and their talented voices serenaded the audience, creating the appropriate mood for each song.
“‘Be Our Guest’ is very magical and fun. ‘Beauty and the Beast’ is very romantic and sweet. Gaston’s tavern scene is very fun and macho. We made sure to incorporate a lot of variety,” commented Ms. Partida.
“My favorite part of the production of the play was to see how these students have come together and become a family,” said Mr. Olea. “The crew has indeed grown close after this production. The actors had fun performing with their friends and will truly cherish this memory.”