Since 1740 when Madame Gabrielle de Villeneuve first published Beauty and the Beast full of lengthy dream sequences, numerous people have attempted to update the fairytale.
Disney produced the most highly visible adaptation and, on Wednesday, March 10, Richard S. Fowler Catholic Junior High stages their version of the Alan Menken/Howard Ash/Tim Rice musical at the Arden Theatre.
Student excitement first spilled over during auditions. When director Stephen Krahn held 2008 auditions for Cinderella, 15 students dropped by. The following year 40 young actors showed up for Aladdin. This year numbers have doubled to 80.
Krahn attributes this explosion of interest in part to a love story that emphasizes beauty must come from within. “When Disney’s musical first came out, they were little kids and it made an impact on them. They can relate to it and identify with the feeling of wonder.”
Often with an overwhelming number of girls auditioning, directors find it difficult to choose a female lead. However, as soon as Grade 8 student Shaney Borden auditioned, it was obvious she was Belle.
“She has a beautiful voice and can act with anyone. She has a great personality and that comes through — the kindness, the gentleness.”
And casting the Prince/Beast can be dicey, especially since the actor has to change both his voice and physical appearance for each character. Again, casting was bowled over by Grade 9 student Travis Matthews, who up until this year displayed more interest in athletics than drama. “He surprised us with his singing voice. He has a gruff voice and its suits the Beast well.”
The production crew has pulled out all the stops, building a castle from scratch, borrowing flies from Morinville Community High School and sewing costumes for over 60 actors.
As well as a solid entertainment vehicle, Beauty and the Beast is a useful learning tool. “There are consequences for our actions. The nicer you are to people, the nicer they are in return. When you let people into your life, you are the better for it.”
Beauty and the Beast Jr.<br />Richard Fowler Catholic Junior High drama department<br />Wednesday, March 10 at 7 p.m.<br />Arden Theatre<br />5 St. Anne Street<br />Tickets: $10 Call 780-459-2644 or at the door