PHOTOS/VIDEO: Stratford High brings 'Beauty and the Beast' to the stage
Published on Thursday, March 31, 2022
BCSD photos / Monica Kreber
Theatre-lovers are invited to be Stratford High’s “guest” and check out the theatre program’s edition of “Beauty and the Beast” this upcoming weekend.
This fan-favorite musical tells the story of a prince who is magically transformed into a monster and the servants into household objects as punishment for his arrogance. The prince – now the “Beast” – imprisons the beautiful “Belle” but must learn to love her – and have her love him back – in order to break the spell and restore all the castle inhabitants back to human.
Audience members will see a lot of recognizable characters on stage, including the arrogant “Gaston”, a vain hunter who vies for Belle’s hand in marriage; “LeFou”, Gaston’s sidekick; “Lumière”, the castle maître d' who is now a candlestick; “Cogsworth”, the beast’s majordomo who has turned into a mantel clock; “Mrs. Potts”, the castle cook who was transformed into a teapot; "Madame de la Grande Bouche", an opera singer-turned-wardrobe; and “Babette”, a castle maid who is now a feather duster, among many more characters.
The cast and crew work under the direction of theatre teachers Madison Latham and Chrystie Sticht; Latham serves as the director and Sticht serves as the tech director for the performance.
Senior Kaleigh Bowlby is the student director and stays busy doing everything to help keep the show together. She is a big part of the tech crew, and can be found at the beginning of rehearsal running mic checks. She helped with building the set and giving notes to anybody who missed a day of rehearsal.
The production has had a lot of outside help to make the show happen as well. Art students helped create the backdrop on the stage. Some of the students in the production are new to singing and received a lot of help from the school’s chorus program. Outside builders have also come in to help cut out some of the bigger pieces on the set.
Bowlby’s favorite part of the show is seeing the look of satisfaction on everyone’s faces.
“Seeing the actors’ faces and then the crew seeing their work finally done and on stage – just seeing everyone’s reactions is, I think, my favorite part,” she said. “They did it – they’re so happy.”
Bowlby anticipates the big musical numbers being well received by the audience – “Belle”, “Human Again,” “Be Our Guest” and “Gaston” are among some of the favorite performances that the cast and crew mentioned.
“It’s going to be a fun show,” she promised.
Bowlby said she is proud of everyone who was involved.
“I couldn’t have done any of this without them,” she said, adding, “Just everyone working their hardest and just being here – I couldn’t do anything without any of them.”
The titular characters are played by seniors Zach Weaver and Jessie Turnbow.
Turnbow grew up loving the movie and the character Belle, saying the production is a dream come true for her because she gets to play her favorite Disney princess.
“I liked that she always stuck up for what she believed in, and she didn’t always quite fit in – she was kind of bookish, and I was a lot like that when I was little,” she said.
Turnbow said she enjoys all the dance numbers, but her favorite scene is actually one she is not in – and that is the musical piece “Gaston.”
“I love that dance number – it looks so good,” she said. “Our cast makes it look so much fun.”
Turnbow said she thinks audience members will enjoy the comedy, “the heart” and the characters in the show.
“All of our characters are so unique and I think that’s what makes it so special – and we have such a talented cast,” she said.
The Beast has a lot of character development in the show, evolving from a spoiled prince, to a grim and depressed creature, to being angry at Belle and viewing her as an intruder, and then gradually warming up to her and, eventually, falling in love with her. Weaver said he likes the complexity of the character.
“You can see he’s still a human – he still has human emotions and everything,” he said.
The production has some additional songs that audience members may not have heard before, including, “If I Can Love Her,” which is what the Beast sings after scaring Belle off in the first act, and it is a turning point for the character because he realizes he needs to change his ways if he wants to break the curse.
“It’s a very sad, very moving song, and I love singing it up there,” Weaver said.
The audience will also enjoy the elaborate costumes – most of them were created by Latham but a lot of them were also created by the students; Cogsworth’s whole clock costume was done by a student and Lumière’s candlestick “flames” were done by another student.
“One thing I wanted for the costumes of ‘Beauty and the Beast’ was for everyone to feel good about themselves in their costume, and to make sure everyone feels special – from Mrs. Potts to ensemble to Belle…I wanted it to be where it lifts them up and makes them feel good about themselves,” Latham said.
Latham and Sticht worked tirelessly on set, lighting, costumes and more. Two of the Belle costumes Latham made entirely, and a personal favorite of Latham’s is the black feathery dress worn by Babette the feather duster.
“Thankfully, we had a bunch of feather boas in stock and I went crazy,” she said.
The production really took the show and made it their own in terms of the characters’ costumes; instead of Mrs. Potts being portrayed as a giant teapot, the production envisioned her as a beautiful young mother, so the actress is wearing an elaborate peacock-inspired dress (with one of her hands being a “spout”). Instead of making Madame de la Grande Bouche a giant dresser, the actress portraying her is wearing a sort of Marie Antionette-inspired skirt covering a set of “drawers” on either side of her legs.
Students worked on the production all semester, but Latham truly started on plans at the beginning of the school year. She created an entire director’s concept of what she envisioned for the set, props, lighting and costumes.
“We can’t make everything I want come true…but it really helped pinpoint what we need to make each of the technical aspects be, and Ms. Sticht is phenomenal with set and lighting,” Latham said.
Senior Caleb Shindledecker plays Lumière.
“It’s been amazing,” he said. “Everyone here’s like such a big family and we’re all putting on this big show and having so much fun together.”
Shindledecker said the fun thing about Lumière is that he is a goofy, loveable character, and would like to think he is everybody’s favorite – “but I’m just slightly biased so that’s okay.”
“And I think it’s that cockiness that also comes into it, because Lumière is cocky, and he’s like the castle flirt, so that’s really fun to play,” he added.
Latham said one of the best things about Stratford’s theatre program is how the students utilize their talents beyond their acting skills. For example, sophomore Noah Grove, who plays Gaston, also built the “bar” used for the song “Gaston.”
“It’s wonderful seeing kids not only work in terms of acting, but work in terms of being able to build and create, and add to it,” she said.
Grove said he has enjoyed playing Gaston, and that one of his favorite things about the character is his “mood swings.”
“One second you can be…swooning over a girl, and then totally just be nonchalant and be in your head and be so egotistical and start flexing, and the next second you’re screaming and yelling,” he said. “He’s extremely fun to play.”
Grove encourages everyone to check out the show.
“Who doesn’t love ‘Beauty and the Beast’?” he said. “It’s one of the best Disney stories of all time. You get to see a bunch of amazing people perform, a bunch of amazing songs, actors…just come out and see it.”
Friday, April 1 at 7 p.m.
Saturday, April 2 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.
Friday, April 8 at 7 p.m.
Saturday, April 9 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.
Tickets can be sold online or at the door; buy tickets.