Lindsay Thurber presents Beauty and the Beast

Students bring vibrant classic musical production to life

A classic musical production will be heating up the Memorial Centre stage beginning this week.

Lindsay Thurber Comprehensive High School presents Disney’s Beauty and the Beast with opening night set for Jan. 31. Additional shows run Feb. 1-2, 6-7.

This ‘tale as old as time’ follows the adventures of Belle, a bright young woman who finds herself imprisoned in the castle of a mysterious beast. With the assistance of the castle’s enchanted staff, a delightful and tender romance develops between these two unlikely friends. This production features magical characters, wonderful sets and costumes, and unforgettable musical numbers.

“I have approached this play from such a place of love,” explains director/teacher Tara Koett. “I was a kid when the Disney movie came out, and I really grew up with it. As far as a vision for the show, I didn’t want to change anything. It is iconic.

“I think there is a certain level of expectation with the audience and I wanted to give them what they expected. It wasn’t about me taking liberties – it’s Disney! So it’s been really great.”

Koett said at first, she was concerned students might have preconceived notions about their characters from the Disney film. Turns out a lot of them haven’t even seen the film, she adds with a laugh. “They were infants when it was released. This is a generation that grew up with the Pixar films and the much later Disney films, so a huge portion of the cast hadn’t seen the Disney movie.”

That can be a plus though, as the students have that much more room to really define their roles and grow into their parts, injecting their own personal touches to the roles.

“They aren’t trying to do an impression of a cartoon character. Instead they are taking what’s on the page and making it their own while still remaining true to the characterization as it’s written.”

Beauty and the Beast is a 1991 American animated musical fantasy romance film produced by Walt Disney Feature Animation and released by Walt Disney Pictures. And according to Wikipedia, it became Disney’s first animated film to be adapted into a Broadway musical in 1994.

“The story still stands alone as one of the greatest. So it was really fun for me to do this. I love the music, the story and the strong female protagonist, and that she is celebrated for her intelligence, bravery and independence. I also wanted to do something different.”

Last year, she directed How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. For this year, she wanted to steer the students in a creatively fresh and new direction.

“This year, it’s a family show. It’s a fairy-tale, it’s romance and it’s just completely changing gears. So it’s been fun for me as a director to have a completely new sense of pacing and I think it’s been great to see the kids take on a completely different style of acting,” she said. “Some of them are playing characters that are very different than the ones they played last year, so it’s been fun to play with range.”

Beauty and the Beast has also presented an enormous undertaking in terms of sets, props, costuming and demands on the crew as well. But everyone has been up to the task.

“It’s been huge, but it’s been fun. And the kids have been unbelievable. They have risen to the occasion.” Several other teachers of course have also been part of the product’s development as well.

“It’s been a team effort for sure.”

This year’s cast numbers 35. The pit band includes 12 musicians and the technical team has 15 students.

“It’s really amazing to see the growth, commitment and dedication that these students have put into this. Some may have come in with zero dance experience. Or they may have sung in their car or their shower, but never in front of anyone.

“I’m so blessed to work these kids. They are so conscientious. They have really taken ownership of the show. It’s really beautiful when they get it – when it all starts to come together and it gets polished. And the energy behind it, too.”

As for the enduring charms of Beauty and the Beast, Koett has several theories.

“It’s a love story, but I think it’s a love story in just about every sense of the words. There’s the romantic love, but there’s a really beautiful sub-plot – the relationship between Belle and her father.

“I also think every character is developed so well with so many layers. No character is two-dimensional – there are surprises and there are really human moments with all of the characters. Maybe audiences find something they can relate to in each of them.

“I really think the show has something for everyone. I’m really proud of these kids and I’m really proud of this show.”

For ticket information, call community programs at 403-324-1059.