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The show went on

November 14, 2006|by KATHLEEN REED

You can't have a great stage show without outstanding actors and actresses. That's what I learned in an intense, one-day trip to New York City last month when I endured too little sleep and too much rain, and I learned more than I expected.

During the last weekend in October, Walker Performing Arts, a theater arts school in Hagerstown, took 15 of us students in two vans on a one-day extravaganza to New York. Students and their families attended a drama workshop and saw a matinee of Disney's Broadway musical "Beauty and the Beast."

Broadway actress Stephanie Lynge led the workshop. Lynge plays a townsperson and a sugar bowl in "Beauty and the Beast."

The trip from Hagerstown to New York was long. The vans left at 4:30 a.m., and didn't arrive in the city until 10:30 a.m. We hit rain in New Jersey, and it was so rainy that we saw six car crashes during the course of 10 minutes.

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After enduring New York traffic, we finally reached the building where we were going to have the workshop. Lynge's perky face greeted us at the door. Since we all woke up at 3 in the morning, hers was the first perky face we saw all day.

We walked into a big room with a mirror covering the whole wall. We sang through the song "Be Our Guest" from Disney's "Beauty and the Beast" a couple times, and we prepared to dance to it. Lynge choreographed the dance with hand motions and kick lines. It was pretty fun.

After we were all lying on the floor with our hearts beating like wild horses, Lynge decided that it was time for us to ask her questions. We asked about her experience with the production of "Beauty and the Beast," and she said that she had been in the play for about a year and a half.

We also asked her about her most embarrassing moments. She told us about several goofs, like the time she understudied for Mrs. Potts, one of the main roles. She was supposed to lead in the song "Beauty and the Beast," but she forgot the lyrics. So she had to make up lyrics as she went along, until she remembered where she was.

When we went to lunch, it was beautiful outside. The sky was clear and the sun was shining. Of course, as soon as we left the restaurant to walk to the Lunt-Fontanne Theater, where "Beauty and the Beast" was showing, it started to pour again.

I was in a small rain poncho, which barely provided any protection. Another Walker Performing Arts student left his umbrella in the van. He got drenched! It was pouring so hard that the rain rushed down the Manhattan sidewalks like a river. The boy who didn't have his umbrella fell right into the gushing water. He looked like he had jumped into a swimming pool.

We finally reached the Lunt-Fontanne Theater where "Beauty and the Beast" was being held. Our group had orchestra seats very close to the stage. The musical, a stage version of the Disney movie about a young French woman whose father is imprisoned by a frightening beast, was phenomenal. Belle, the female lead, was played by Sarah Uriarte Berry, who has a beautiful singing voice. The Beast was played by Steven Blanchard, who was totally hilarious.

Gaston, a handsome but selfish man who is trying to make Belle fall in love with him, was played by Donny Osmond - yes, Donny Osmond, the superstar. Osmond was definitely the star of the show. Gaston's sidekick, Lefou, was played by Connor Gallagher.

The special effects were amazing - when the beast was changing back to the prince, it actually looked like it was happening - and everyone brought the play to life.

I sat on the edge of my chair with my eyes popping out of my head. It was so worth it the hassle of waking up at 3 a.m. and enduring drenching rains!

The trip was a great experience for all of us. Teri Walker, director of Walker Performing Arts, wanted us, her students, to understand the amount of effort you have to put into a play and that you can't have a great show without outstanding actors and actresses.

With this trip, she accomplished that.

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