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‘Beauty and the Beast’ an Imaginative Tale of Transformation
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Wednesday, April 20, 2022
 

STORY AND PHOTOS BY KAREN BOSSICK

Megan Mahoney finds the story of “Beauty and the Beast” a little odd because it is flawed, and still many women and girls consider Belle their favorite Disney princess.

“We’ve had conversations with the cast about some of the flaws—mostly, that taking a girl prisoner with the hope of her falling in love with you isn't an ideal relationship tactic,” said Mahoney, who is the directing this week’s production of “Beauty and the Beast, Jr.” at Sun Valley Community School. “However, this story has stood the test of time!

“I know plenty of women and girls who will quickly tell you Belle is their favorite Disney princess as she was the first brunette princess, is strong-willed and she loves to read. A departure from the more demure princesses of the classic Disney films like Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty, Belle resonated with a generation of young women.”

Sun Valley Community School’s Middle School will present “Beauty and the Beast, Jr.” at 5 p.m. tonight through Friday---April 20-22—in the school’s theater. Tickets are $7 for students and $12 for adults and can be purchased online at https://www.communityschool.org/news. Masks are optional.

The 70-minute musical—a story of transformation and tolerance--is based on the original Broadway production that ran for 13 years and was nominated for nine Tony Awards. It features some of the most popular songs ever written by Alan Menken and the late Howard Ashman, including “Beauty and the Beast.”

The story tells the tale of Belle, a young woman who encounters a Beast, who is really a young prince under a spell. If he can learn to love and be loved before it’s too late, the curse will end and he will be transformed back into a prince.

“There is an overarching theme of acceptance and tolerance of others throughout the story. Belle, her father Maurice, the Beast and the Enchanted Objects, such as Lumiere the candlestick and Cogsworth the clock, are considered odd,” said Mahoney. “These characters come together over their perceived differences, which ultimately become their strengths.”

In contrast, the villagers form an angry, ignorant mob intent on killing the Beast simply because the unknown is frightening to them.

“This results in tragedy for the villagers, and the characters who are perceived as different come out on top at the end,” said Mahoney. “These plot points and characters remind an audience that it is okay, and often better, to march to the beat of your own drum.”

The production involves 27 Middle School thespians, as well as eight students working on the tech crew.

Camilla Parks plays Belle and Evan Dittami, the Beast. Bridger McBee plays Maurice, Belle’s inventor father; Clive Bates, Lumiere; Georgina Grant, Mrs. Potts; Harrison Black, Gaston; Torin Vandenburgh, Chip; Aster Pitts, Cogsworth the clock; Coco Duke, Monsieur D’Arque; Grace Bloedorn, Babette the feather duster; Hoken Johnson, LeFou, and Lizzie Loving, Madame de la Bouche.

“What I love about the story is how genuine and realistic the characters’ personalities are,” said Camilla Parks, an eighth grader. 

The thespians were able to emerge from behind their face masks right as the rehearsal process started, able to see actor’s faces and hear their voices unhindered by masks for the first time in two years.

“This cast has been incredibly devoted since day one,” said Mahoney. “Usually in a rehearsal process, there will be a lot of scripts onstage as the process gets started. Not with this cast! They came to every rehearsal with their lines and songs already memorized and ready to learn their staging and choreography.”

The production has brought together students from three grades that generally would not work together. They’ve learned problem solving, public speaking, collaboration, humility, self-advocacy, creativity, kindness, how to handle rejection, and a dozen other skills in the process, said Mahoney.

“There are hard lessons in theater, such as not getting the role you wanted or the embarrassment of your voice cracking while onstage,” she added. “But every single moment onstage and off is preparing these kids to be successful, competent, and resourceful.”

“I feel like I am friends with the whole cast and I have gotten to know and become friends with so many people I otherwise would not have,” said Camilla Parks. “This process is inspiring because we have built a whole show from practically scratch in less than two months, which proves that a lot can be accomplished in little time.”

Torin Vandenburgh the seventh-grader who plays Chip, concurred: “I love that I get to spend four weeks with amazing people and directors that care about us. Working with people across all grades is so fun because I get to make new friendships and memories with awesome people.”

Mahoney, the Elementary School dance and Middle School music and drama teacher, is serving as choreographer, costume designer and set builder, in addition to the director. Music director is Kevin Wade, the Middle and Upper School theater teacher and Creative Arts Academy co-director. Stage and props manager is Elle Lucas, Elementary School fifth-grade teaching assistant.

Upper School students Noah Davis-Jeffers and Elyse Duffield are assistant stage managers and Ida Belle Gorby is the assistant costume builder.

The cast features Addie Parmenter, Aila Pettit, Amarah Wesley, Anna Pierre, Aster Pitts, Blakeslee Davis-Jeffers, Bridger McBee, Camilla Parks, Camille Armeen, Clive Bates, Coco Duke, Evan Dittami, Gaia Peddy, Georgina Grant, Grace Bloedorn, Harrison Black, Hoken Johnson, Jackie Stoddard, Kathryn Mendoza, Lizzie Loving, Maeve Hansmeyer, Maggie Bailey, Nina Viesturs, Reese Korby, Riley Siegel, Sara Desaulniers and Torin Vandenburgh.

The Tech Crew features Cash Ammons, Luke Stevenson, Ben Kashen, Moi Bicas-Dolgen, Caroline Desaulniers, Reed Fowler, Blaine Holderman and Quinn Parmenter.

“I really like the final result and seeing what everyone made,” said Reed Fowler, a seventh grader.

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