Hard work for 'Beauty'

May 22, 2007|by KRISSY DiMERCURIO

For the past two months I've found myself studying late into the night for school, gathering my friends together on the weekends, and pretending I'm a talking teapot.

Yes, it's back to the stage once again for me and other members of my theater group, Walker Performing Arts. We've got another big show on the way - a stage version of Walt Disney's "Beauty and the Beast."

Our last play, "The King and I," ended in March, so we've had a shortened rehearsal period for "Beauty and the Beast" - just more than two months. It's been a challenge to learn lines, memorize blocking and practice dance steps.

"Sometimes it's difficult to stay on top of things with such a short time to rehearse," says Mary McGinley, a 15-year-old freshman at St. Maria Goretti High School, who plays Belle, the bookish but beautiful female lead.


Despite this challenge we've all felt things come together rapidly, according to theater director Teri Walker.

"The cast has risen to the challenge, and I feel that they are all doing their best work ever," Walker says.

Despite the hard work and intense rehearsals, everyone is having a great time. Maria Jones, 13, an eighth-grader from St. Mary School, plays Lefou, the clumsy, comic right-hand-man to bad-boy lead Gaston.

"I love playing this character because I can be goofy and play around with it," Maria says. "Everyone's characters are just so over the top."

Max Cross, 11, a sixth-grader at Northern Middle School, agrees with Maria. He plays the suave, charming, talking candlestick, Lumiere.

"I especially like this role, because everyone gets to see this French accent of mine that is just awesome," he says.

Of course, in performing live theater, there are bound to be some mistakes. One of the actors' jobs is not to let the audience realize a cast member has bungled a line or mangled a prop. Mary recalls one scene in which Belle confronts Gaston, played by David Burkey, a 15-year-old freshman at North Hagerstown High School.

"I had to pretend to smack David Burkey," Mary says. "We ran the sequence a little too fast and I accidentally ended up really smacking him!"

Embarrassing at the moment, but funnier in retrospect. These are the sort of things that make preparations for a show a bonding experience.

I can personally vouch for this. Playing the role of Mrs. Potts, a motherly teapot, I'm almost never without my son, Chip, a teacup played by 11-year-old Caitlin Cremins, a fifth-grader at Paramount Elementary School. Before this show, Caitlin and I didn't really know each other, but now we hang out a lot.

Putting together a production this big isn't always fun and games. There are plenty of obstacles we have had to overcome with this play. Walker Performing Arts rented the costumes from New York, and the musical has a lot of singing and big dance numbers.

"So much energy has to go into performing," says 16-year-old St. Maria Goretti junior Gabi Schiro (who plays multiple roles in the play), "and the costumes are so bulky and elaborate."

Then there's the technical aspect of this play. It's very complex, according to Jerry Walker, our backstage technician.

"It is demanding and difficult to coordinate the sequence of events from the backstage angle," he says. "There is as much choreography backstage as there is onstage during this show, in order to move sets, props, drops, and scenery, as well as costume pieces."

And the production isn't cheap. Obtaining the rights to the show and renting the costumes is expensive. Parents have stepped in to help out. The students also have raised money by holding a car wash, a bake sale and a penny drive.

If you go ...

WHAT: "Beauty and the Beast"

WHEN: 8 p.m. Thursday, May 24, Friday, May 25, and Saturday, May 26; also 2 p.m. Saturday

WHERE:St. James Brethren Church, 17718 Lappans Road, east of Williamsport

COST: Tickets cost $15, adults; $12, children and senior citizens

CONTACT: For information or advance ticket purchase, call 301-991-0611 or e-mail

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