‘Beauty and the Beast’ Returns to the Stage in St. Clairsville

Leading the cast of the 2019 St. Clairsville High School Musical Theatre production of Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” are Leslie Rawlings as Belle and Caleb Berk as The Beast.

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — Marking 10 years since its musical theater program brought “Beauty and the Beast” to the stage, this year’s spring musical at St. Clairsville High School is celebrating the anniversary by taking the Disney favorite to the next level.

The public is invited to “Be Our Guest” to a fun evening out for the whole family this weekend and next weekend as the St. C. Players present “Beauty and the Beast,” with shows continuing tonight and Saturday, May 3-4, as well as next Thursday, Friday and Saturday, May 9-11, in the middle school auditorium.

Theater doors open at 6:30 p.m. each night, and showtime is 7 p.m.

Based on the musical version of the 1991 Disney animated classic film by the same name, “Beauty and the Beast” tells the tale of a prince who is transformed by an enchantress into a beastly figure. The prince is cursed to live his life as a bitter recluse inside his castle until — and unless — he learns the true meaning of love … before it’s too late.

The Beast is given that chance when a young beauty named Belle from the nearby village comes to his castle. Other humans in the castle are also cursed to live as enchanted objects, and a roller coaster of comedy, romance and drama unfolds as the relationship between the maiden and the cursed prince plays out. It does so amid boisterous encounters with the fantastic characters of the castle and a riotous invasion by the townspeople, led by an arrogant brute who makes unwelcome advances toward Belle.

“If you want to see a cast of 50 kids doing some phenomenal things in music and dance and theater, it will be well worth your evening to come check it out,” said Wayne Berk, director of the vocal music programs at St. Clairsville High School. “They’re doing it at a super high level, and I don’t think there’s anything in it you won’t enjoy.”

Marking the 21st high school musical he’s directed, “Beauty and the Beast” is familiar territory for Berk.

“We did it 10 years ago, so this is the 10th anniversary here in St. C.,” said Berk, who noted he also did a production of “Beauty and the Beast” at Wheeling Park High School before that. “I go back to this one because it is a fantastic musical for this age group. They can do it at a super high level. They understand it, they can get it. I don’t have to make adults out of them. It’s just fun character roles.”

Familiarity of putting on the musical doesn’t necessarily mean it’s less of a challenge, however.

“It is easier in the sense that there’s an idea of what’s going on, but it’s not easier in the sense that it gets more elaborate every time. So what we did 10 years ago on an $8,500 budget, we’re expanding it into something bigger and better with a $25,000 budget. We’ve expanded the stage and the costumes and the details and the decorations, so if you could see a picture of what our show looked like in 2009 compared to now, it’s much more elaborate.

“It’s not been any less work, let’s put it that way!”

Costumes alone have enhanced the production, Berk noted, adding that this show uses professional costumes made specifically for this musical and rented from a company in Florida.

“They’re the real deal,” he said.

Huge sets have been constructed to help bring the story to life, as well.

The show is accompanied by a live orchestra, and the cast and crew are comprised of talented students representing all grades of high school.

“In a big way, this cast is a tremendous product of upperclassmen who have all been through the program — of the 12 character roles, eight of them are played by seniors,” Berk said. “They come up through the ranks, they learn the ropes, they get some experience, they watch how others do it … I was thinking, this is kind of like having a senior football team, the expectations are really high because this cast is led by a veteran group. Let’s just say I went into dress rehearsal not panicked, and it’s been a long time since I could say that.”

Leading the cast are seniors Caleb Berk as The Beast and Leslie Rawlings as Belle, who along with their fellow cast members brought audiences to their feet this week during the dress rehearsal and on Thursday’s opening night.

“There are no dull moments,” said Rawlings. “All of us are tons of fun, and kids can even come up and take pictures with the fantasy characters afterwards.”

Ceiling fans installed in the theater have been a welcome addition for the audience and the cast member alike, but for some of the actors, wearing the huge costumes under the hot lights is enough to present a test of endurance and a challenge to stay focused and in character.

“The costume weighs a lot, it’s very hot — so maintaining focus and acting while you’re dying from the heat is probably the biggest challenge,” said Caleb Berk, who noted that the fun-filled show is well worth it and is entertaining for people of all ages. “It’s amazing. It’s lots of fun, there are parts that are really funny and there are parts that are serious, so it’s got something for everyone.”

The director agreed, noting special attention has been given to make sure this St. C. production is bigger and better than ever.

“The biggest challenge for this show is just all the details,” said Wayne Berk. “There are so many little things, from the rose that has to have pedals that fall to Belle and all of her little costume changes and nuances, to the tavern scene — there’s just so many little details that have to be done for this show.”

There will be concessions, T-shirts, roses and crowns for sale in the lobby at each show. Guests can send flowers to be delivered to their favorite cast members.

Featured cast members also include Reese Skaggs as Gaston, Justin Hoover as Maurice, Tavian Harris as Cogsworth, Kamryn Russell as Mrs. Potts, Seth Richards as Lumiere, Abby Berk as Chip, Alexis Barker as Babette, Annaliese Ayres as Madame de la Grande Bouche, Corey Rogers as Lefou and Mason Morgan as Monsieur D’arque.

Ensemble cast members portraying silly girls, wolves, townspeople and other enchanted objects include Nick Nicholoff, Ashley Greenwood, Elaina Baker, Kylie Gallagher, Jayci Gorza, Bella Swan, Madelyn Conaway, Mallory Marconi, Kira Balgo, Miles Fraginal, Logan Gillotte, Burke Glover, Grace Heath, Gavin Shields, Halle Beck, Sarah Kyer, Lillie McMillen, Casara Orr, Noah Palmer, Brenna Planey, Lily Pollock, Alexa Shields, Rhiannon Stoltey, Abbey Toothman, Anthony Vcelka and Caroline Yates.

Along with direction and set design by Wayne Berk, the production is made possible by efforts of assistant director Kristen Rateno, who also serves as costume coordinator, set and backdrop designer and program coordinator/designer. Choreography is by Brooke Smoulder, and set construction assistants include Rateno, Matt Gallager, Max Vincenzo and A.C. Wiethe.

Members of the production/crew include stage managers Kylie McKeegan and Taya Rocchi; stage crew members Jonah Gannoe and Ethan Tiger; sound engineer Megan Woodford; music sound engineer Zane Ponzani; sound effects, Marshall Callahan; lighting engineer Mikayla Hendershot; spotlight, Olivia Moyer; assistants to the director Marissa Fellin and Macy Malin; castle door design, Liesel Ray; backdrop design assistants Kira Wakulchik, Justin Hoover, Jeanne Nguyen, Bella Swan and Kellen Weidman.

Members of the pit orchestra, under the direction of Justin Schwertfeger, include Lakin Weaver, Joel Panas, Jonah Matko, Holly Kidd, Emily Mozena, Ashley Manion, William Metzger, Matthew Horton, Sarah Evonek, Abby Fifield, Jonathan Burkhart, Alyssa Bodkin, Linh Le and Zane Ponzani.

Tickets are available at the door or in advance by emailing stcmusicals@gmail.com.

For more information, visit the St. Clairsville Musical Theatre social media pages on Facebook and Twitter.

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