A Tale as Old as Time: Pinecrest High Presents 'Beauty and the Beast'
The blockbuster Broadway musical that closed last July after racking up 5,464 regular performances and 46 previews is on stage for three performances this weekend at Pinecrest High School.
"Beauty and the Beast" is being presented at the Robert E. Lee Auditorium in the latest of the highly successful annual productions offered by the school's theater and choral departments.
Based on a traditional French fairy tale first published more than 300 years ago, the legend has been adapted for the stage and screen several times. "Beauty and the Beast" also spawned a television series, music videos and pop songs written by groups in several countries around the world. However, it is most familiar to American audiences in the Disney film version in 1991, and then as the hugely popular Broadway show.
Adam Faw, the artistic and technical director of Pinecrest's theater department, and James Brown, head of the choral department, chose the show over the summer months.
"We met with Julianna Johnston, the choreographer who did such a fantastic job for us last year, and tossed several ideas around, before James and I made the final decision," says Faw. "'Beauty and the Beast' is a difficult and complicated show to do. However, we realized that we had the talent to produce the show, with so many seniors who have been in other Pinecrest shows, and determined that this was the time to try it."
The cast for "Beauty and the Beast" is large, with 60 actors, singers and dancers on stage, backed up by 12 student technicians backstage. The students from Faw's technical theater class did the carpentry and painting of the stunning set. The lighting design was created under Faw's supervision by student technicians who will be operating the light board during performances.
Augmenting the student involvement is Sandy Hoy, who has managed props for both the Sandhills Theatre Company and Moore OnStage. Sound design and costuming are handled by David Godsey of Fayetteville's Extra Mile Audio and Mary McKeithen of Showboat Costumes, respectively.
A 20-piece orchestra under the direction of James Brown, a combination of local professional musicians and students, is in the pit. Brown comments that it is important for him to be aware of the musical nuances that are common to the Disney productions with which people are familiar.
Noting that most of the students who play the leading roles in "Beauty and the Beast" are in his choral program, he says he has taken the opportunity to give them some extra coaching.
"In addition, since the ensemble is composed of more dancers than singers, I have asked the principals to double in the ensemble numbers," he says. "I am really proud of the way they have met the challenge."
Junior Bradley Gibson has the demanding role of The Beast. He has traveled a long way since becoming a participant in a third-grade school play, in which he played a dog. In the intervening years, he has honed his theatrical skills in some of the Art Council's children's shows, several community theater musicals, has taken dance classes, and worked on developing his vocal abilities as well as appearing as Bernardo in last year's Pinecrest production of "West Side Story."
"It's quite a stretch from playing a Puerto Rican gang leader last year to being the Beast this year," Gibson says. "Normally, I am not a frightening or intimidating person, so I have spent a lot of time practicing to make my voice reflect that element of the character. The hardest part of the role is to make the Beast frightening, but at the same time make him a real person worthy of love. He has a soul and a heart, and it's crucial to show that side of his nature."
Braylin Bayless is Belle in the Pinecrest production. A sophomore, she is playing a leading role for the first time since she was Laurey in an eighth-grade production of "Oklahoma."
"Beauty and the Beast" was her favorite Disney movie.
"I have always related to the character of Belle, and feel that I know her very well," she says. "I am finding, though, that acting is a lot of work, while singing comes very naturally for me."
She especially likes her song, "A Change in Me," because "it is really powerful."
Another singer/actor in the Pinecrest production is Brenton O'Hara, who portrays the villainous Gaston. "The character is so different from who I am as a person," he says, "that it has been a real test for me to get inside the part, and it's been fun to step into his shoes."
A bass baritone who sings with the Moore County Choral Society and with his church choir, O'Hara says that while he would have been happy with just being in the ensemble, he is pleased to have such a sizable singing role.
Adam Faw believes setting the scene for the actors is an important factor in every production, and such is the case with the scene in the forest outside the Beast's castle when Belle is being chased by wolves.
"We got really creative in staging this particular section," he says. "The wolves will be in the audience, on the stage, and swinging from ropes above the stage."
Faw also points to the musical production number, "Be Our Guest" as one of the most complex scenes in the show, when almost every member of the cast is on stage. It is another fine example of creativity -- this time by the choreographer, Julianna Johnston.
For her part, Johnston says that Adam Faw has been phenomenal to work with.
"He has listened to some of my more far-out ideas that I suggested for the dance routines, and he has provided the resources and the opportunity for me to choreograph the show as I envisioned it," she says.
She cites the fact that many of the dancers in "Beauty and the Beast" are repeats from last year.
"They have a lot of good basics, and I was able to take that choreography level and move it even higher," she says.
Describing the choreography for the "Be Our Guest" number and for the battle scene in which the villagers try to storm the Beast's castle as examples of a "multi-layered" approach. Johnston says, "We have some good dance leaders among the seniors, but the whole cast has been willing to learn and to practice faithfully. Instead of my saying 'we have to,' the cast has said 'we want to,' and for a choreographer, it doesn't get any better than that."
Tickets for the three performances of Pinecrest High School's production of "Beauty and the Beast" are $10 for adults and $8 for students, and may be obtained at the door. Curtain time is at
7 p.m. Friday, March 14, and Saturday, March 15, and at 2 p.m. Sunday, March 16.
Tickets will also be available for a fundraising raffle at $5 each. The winning ticket holder will receive a two-night stay for two at Chetola Resort at Blowing Rock during the summer season, and two tickets to one of Blowing Rock Stage Company's productions during its 2008 season.
Contact Pinehurst freelance writer Mary Elle Hunter at mhunter104@ yahoo.com.
More like this story