“Beauty and the Beast” lauded despite three weeks lost

65 middle school students took part in Beauty and the Beast.

65 middle school students took part in “Beauty and the Beast.”

The curtains of the Lowe Theater opened to reveal intricate sets, beautiful costumes, and exhilarating performances as the production began. 65 middle school students sang and danced to classic Beauty and the Beast musical numbers, such as “Gaston,” “Be Our Guest” and more, all while dressed as 17th century French peasants or pieces of sentient furniture.

The musical was performed on Thursday, Oct. 12th and Friday, Oct. 13th. The fantastical and historical elements of the musical added a level of enjoyment for the actors. 

“It’s cool to be a teacup, a fork, a silly girl or a wardrobe,” said seventh grader Grace Rustay, who played Madame de la Grande Bouche. “It’s so much fun to just be something that you would never get a chance to be in real life. In theater, you can be whatever you want to be.”

The students all enjoyed their parts in the production. 

“I’m afraid I’m gonna mess up all the time,” said eighth grader Lindsay Frankfort, who played Belle. “But after the first number, I was like ‘I got this.’ Being the lead is a lot of responsibility but it’s also really fun.”

The middle school students involved in the production have been preparing for the show since the end of August with rehearsals that lasted up to five hours.

“I love singing and I love performing, and it’s really fun to do it alongside my friends who like all the same things,” Frankfort said.

Many participants are experienced thespians. Eighth-grader Addie Fairbanks (Mrs. Potts) has jumped at every chance to perform in shows since kindergarten, while eighth-grader Tanner Watson (the Beast) counts Beauty and the Beast as his fifteenth musical. They agree that it is exciting to play someone else, even if their character is very different from themselves.

“It’s kind of odd having this motherly look to me, because I’m not usually this motherly,” said Fairbanks. “So it’s fun to take on this new role, with a new character to explore.”

Several Upper School students were also involved with Beauty and the Beast as members of the stage crew. The stage manager of the show was junior Ashley Kim, who oversaw all technological aspects of the production, calling the show and cueing every tech. She also oversaw all rehearsals and kept the middle schoolers in check, and looked at scripts, auditions, and whatever the directors needed.

“There was a lot going into it,” said Kim. “There was a lot to do and a lot of commitment, but I would definitely say it was a good experience and I would do it again.”

Although all the students involved enjoyed their overall experiences in putting on the musical, the production did have some issues earlier in the process. Due to the destruction and missed school caused by Hurricane Harvey, fine arts staff members were not certain SJS would be able to put on a middle school musical this year. Over three weeks of rehearsal and production time was lost due to Harvey.

“The kids and the crew worked so hard,” said director Alex Arizpe. “The choreographers, the music director, they did what they needed to do, and we finally ended up pulling it all together.”

The show did have to be shortened, with the original 115 minute runtime being reduced to 110 minutes. The lost production time also delayed set construction. The production adjusted by using a few backdrops rather than full sets, but were able to rent the sets ultimately used in the show at the last minute. Any compromises made were unnoticeable to the majority of the musical’s viewers, who insisted that it was one of SJS Middle School’s best performances.

“We owe it all to the kids,” said Arizpe. “They all stepped up and they played their parts, and that means a lot to us. We were very happy with the whole outcome.”