Arts school stages a lavish production of Disney's 'Beauty and the Beast'

April 25, 2012|By CRYSTAL SCHELLE |
  • Travis Thorpe and Julia Thompson star in Barbara Ingram School for the Arts' production of "Beauty and the Beast," the musical based on the fairy tale about a girl condemned to stay with a monstrous creature.
By Kevin G. Gilbert/Staff Photographer

It’s a tale as old as time.

And that’s just one reason why those involved with the Barbara Ingram School for the Arts’ production of Disney’s “Beauty and Beast” said the story has stood the test of time.

Opening Friday night, BISFA will stage the musical for two weekends at The Maryland Theatre.

Julia Thompson and Travis Thorpe, both 17-year-old seniors, play the show’s leads, Belle and the Beast, respectively.

The actors said the theme of “Beauty and the Beast” — that everyone wants to be loved and accepted — is one reason why the story of a girl who falls in love with an unappealing man still resonates with audiences today, nearly 20 years after the debut of Disney’s full-length animated film.

It’s the characters people connect with, especially the Beast.

“I love that deep inside, he wants what he wants, and what he wants is (Belle) and to be accepted,” Travis said. “It’s very relatable.”

This is Julia’s first turn on the stage. During last year’s production of “Phantom of the Opera,” she was cast as the understudy for Christine and didn’t get to perform onstage.

For Julia, playing Belle was a dream come true.

“I was really excited to play ‘Beauty and the Beast,’ because I’ve always wanted to be a Disney princess,” Julia said with laugh.

Many of the songs in “Beauty and the Beast” have become fan-favorites. And the two young actors said they have their favorites as well.

Julia said one of her favorite songs to perform is “A Change in Me,” which she said is Belle’s anthem about how she’s grown up.

Travis said his favorite is “I Can’t Love Her,” because in that moment the Beast feels like he has blown it with Belle and the spell won’t be broken.

But it’s the love story that has continued to cast audiences under a spell.

“It’s a timeless ...” Julia began.

“ — love story,” Travis said.

Ruth Ridenour, director of theater and arts and the show’s director, said this is one of Disney’s most beloved fairy tales.

Auditions were held in December and students have been in rehearsals since January. There are 71 members of the cast.

“That’s a lot of costuming,” Ridenour said with a laugh.

Behind the scenes, there are 15 members in the crew and about 20 musicians in the orchestra pit, all to put on the fledging school’s major musical production. And that doesn’t count teachers, staff, faculty and parent volunteers who have been helping the students get ready for opening night.

Ridenour promises a lot of big wows for audience members: from the Beast’s costume, to special effects (flying is involved) as well as the professional-level talents of her students.

Julia said the students “put so much effort into making basically a Broadway-caliber” show.

But the show’s piece de resistance is the show’s signature song, “Be Our Guest” in which nearly all of the cast will be on stage. Ridenour promises it to be a “show-stopping number, Las Vegas style.”

This show not only is a way to help raise funds for the school, but Ridenour said she makes sure to put the students through their paces, so if they want to pursue theater professionally they’ll be ready.

Mostly, though, she said, it’s more than just learning a craft. Among other things, she wants them to learn discipline, gain self-esteem and “learn to believe in themselves and know what they can do.”

Both Julia and Travis said “Beauty and the Beast” is a bittersweet production because this will be their last performance before their graduation on Thursday, June 7.

Both Julia and Travis said they both have dreams of continuing to act, sing and perform after graduation, but aren’t sure in what capacity.

Julia, who is the daughter of Randy Thompson of Rohrersville and Bonnie Gallant of Hagerstown, said she is attending Hagerstown Community College in the fall, with plans to transfer to another college to earn a Bachelor of Fine Arts in musical theater.

Travis, who is the son of Jeff and Melody Thorpe of Hagerstown, has been accepted to Robert Morris University where he’ll major in business and computer science.

As for opening night, both Julia and Travis said they’re looking forward to slipping into their costumes and out onto the stage. In the meantime, they’re enjoying their characters.

“It’s liberating to be somebody else as wonderful as Belle,” Julia said.

If you go ...       

WHAT: Barbara Ingram School of the Arts presents Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast”

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Fridays, April 27 and May 4; Saturdays, April 28 and May 5; 2:30 p.m. Sundays, April 29 and May 6.

WHERE: The Maryland Theatre, 21 S. Potomac St., downtown Hagerstown

COST: Tickets cost $10 to $25.

CONTACT: Call 301-790-2000 or go to

MORE: A Storybook Street Fair will be from 1:30 to 4 p.m. Saturday, May 5, in front of BISFA on South Potomac Street. Free; some events may charge a fee.

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