Hockaday’s take on a tale as old as time was the first production performed in the Nasher-Haemisegger Family Center Theater. The first performance of “Beauty and the Beast” took place on Feb. 2.
The Upper School musical required many months of work, preparation and rehearsal. A team of fine arts teachers that included Upper School drama teacher Emily Gray, Upper School choir director Bonnie Jean Coleman, Hockaday technical director Robert Kallos, and dance teachers Christie Sullivan and Beth Wortley selected the musical. They all came into the discussion with a few musicals of their own in mind, but only one was selected.
“Each of us argues our case; we’ll give the pros and cons because every show has pros and cons,” Gray said.
Although they considered many show possibilities, “Beauty and The Beast” was chosen for several reasons.
“The big deciding factors this year were the fact that we have a brand-new, fabulous building and we wanted to make sure the show is something that everyone can see,” Gray said. “We wanted it to be show that people recognize easily and that lots of age groups can enjoy, something upbeat.”
In March of 2016, the design crew began the process of planning the set and continued until the last weeks before the musical performance. A designer’s job included drawing sketches, creating scale models of construction pieces, choosing color schemes and providing valuable input throughout the entire process of constructing the set.
But before they began any designing, the team did countless hours of research. Senior and head of crew Sabah Shams played an integral role in this step.
“Any time we start a play or a musical or any kind of production we create a design wall,” Shams said, “The research wall is a huge aspect of our design because it allows us to look at and collect all these different ideas to use for a set piece or a prop.”
The crew members drew inspiration from many different sources, including different styles of architecture and the internet but drew especially from their own creativity. They were encouraged to think outside of the box and worry about practicality later.
“We just threw out the wildest ideas we possibly could, and that’s what Mr. Kallos wants. At the beginning you don’t want to think small,” Shams said, “You just let your creativity go and try to come up with the weirdest possible things. That’s part of the process: coming up with these huge, fantastical ideas that may or may not work but may lead to something different.”
Costumes crew co-head junior Kaitlen Cerney found the process of researching for “Beauty and the Beast” simple compared to past shows she has worked on. Because the majority of the costumes for this production were rented from Rose Costumes and because “Beauty and the Beast” is such a well-known show, costumes crew did not have to go through the usual procedure of creating a mood board.
Renting costumes was not the only change that the crew implemented for “Beauty and the Beast.” It is standard practice for run crew members to wear all black when they are onstage moving props or adjusting set pieces, but for this musical the crew received a new look. The crew wore black sweatpants and black shoes along with shirts that were meant to give the illusion that the crew were royal servants.
“We really wanted every aspect of the show to seem like it was a part of the Beauty and the Beast time period,” Cerney said, “We thought that these costumes would make the crew members really seem like they were a part of the show as opposed to if they were just wearing all-black.”
As the technical crews worked behind the scenes, the cast of actors did their work on the stage. Gray, Coleman, Sullivan and Wortley took into consideration the number of casting opportunities available to upperclassmen when choosing the musical.
“It has a couple of really good show-stopping song and dance numbers that allow more people to perform. We wanted to spread out the performance opportunities,” Gray said.
After auditions were held and the show was cast, rehearsals began in November. The cast met on weekday from 4 to 6 p.m. and during this time they blocked scenes, learned music and memorized lines. They also met on several Saturdays, and the week before the shows the cast and crew met until 10 p.m.
Senior Emily Christopher played both a chorus member and the character of Monsieur D’Arque, the owner of the insane asylum. This gave her a unique perspective on the differences of roles in the musical.
“Being in the chorus is a lot more about working with people,” Christopher said, “You really have to interact people and bounce off of others.”
The biggest challenge for senior Sara Held, who played the lead role of Belle, was to ensure that her character received a faithful portrayal.
“I think people assume that because she is manufactured by Disney that she’s this very one-sided, sweet, ingénue character when I actually think she’s much more nuanced than that,” Held said.“She’s not just this terrified heroine that’s waiting for someone to sweep her off her feet.”
But not everyone on stage was an actor. Senior dancers Peyton Smith, Megan Hudspeth and Annabelle Folsom and sophomore Kate Bramlett played the roles of dancers in the musical. As a dancer, Smith was worried that she would feel distanced from the rest of the cast members, but found that she had nothing to worry about.
“It’s given me a new family that I didn’t know that I would have,” Smith said,
Even though the cast members spent hours together for months, Smith said that one moment in particular gave the cast a special bond: performing the song “Gaston.”
“He’s such a terrible character that it’s fun to sing a song about him,” Smith said. “That song brought us together.”
Ashlynn Long – Asst. View Editor