Students in the Goshen High School auditorium are focused intently on the energetic woman standing at center stage. Director Marcia Yost is giving notes to the cast and crew of the upcoming GHS production of “Beauty and The Beast” before one of the final dress rehearsals.
The show, based on the original Walt Disney animated feature, went to Broadway in 1994 and was an instant hit. Since then it has, in spite of its many production “challenges,” become a favorite of community theaters and schools across the country. One never, it seems, gets tired of the tale of Belle and her Beast and the romantic transformation that led to happily ever after. For Yost, however, producing this musical after it has made the rounds of other groups and schools in this area is not true to form. She was the first to lead led her team through the premiere production of the high school version of “Les Miserables” and tried for “Beauty” when it was initially released for amateur production. But timing is everything and those rights went to John Glenn High School. Yost instead produced a high-flying “Peter Pan.” “After that we did ‘Godspell,’ an ensemble show,” the dynamic director recalled. “And then one thing led to another and a couple of area theaters and schools had done it (‘Beauty and The Beast’) and we decided to wait.” Obviously the time is right and, as usual, Yost & Co. are pulling out all the stops.
In one part of the auditorium, Jacob Greaser is being turned into the Beast and Katie Neeb Miller goes over her lines as Belle. Justin Lehman and Elisabeth Kleinsmith check their elaborate costumes as Cogsworth the butler/clock and Mrs. Potts, housekeeper/teapot, respectively, while Luke Jacobs displays Gaston’s muscles and Tell Williams prepares for the many stage falls required of LeFou.
Scenic designer Rich Snyder did not make it easy on himself or his construction crew. He designed and built a rotating central block (shades of ‘Les Mis’) that turns from the village marketplace to the palace of the Beast and back again easily and, more important, silently. Expanding the playing area, one side of the stage becomes Belle’s palace room and the other, the Beast’s tower where the enchanted rose is drooping. Drops and set pieces define the additional locations — the village inn, the forest and Belle’s home.
Add to this the costuming —not only for the many villagers but for the enchanted inhabitants of the palace who gradually become “objects” as the spell increases — plus props, wigs, makeup, black lights, fog machines, a trickling fountain, live mikes for each of the primary performers and, in the grand finale, an airborne transformation courtesy of ZFX Flying Effects, and you have a production of grand proportions. And that doesn’t include the 85 young people in the singing/dancing/acting cast and Sue Ellington’s orchestra. “We encourage them to give all they’ve got,” Yost said of her students. “They don’t realize how much they have down deep. We don’t want them to disappoint themselves.” Talking to the assembled company, her final instructions were “Work a plan … you’ll have a plan and that’s how good theater happens.””Beauty and The Beast” will be presented at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and March 19-21 and 2:30 p.m. Sunday and March 22 in the GHS auditorium. Tickets are $9 for adults and $7 for children and students through high school with senior citizen prices for Sunday matinees. FCor reservations, 533-7674 or 533-8651, ext. 2518.