Tale as old as time

“Beauty and the Beast” opens at 7 p.m. tonight (Thursday) at the Solon High School auditorium. Among the cast are, from left, Kyle Maiorana as Cogsworth, Jack Kasper as Lumiere, Joelle Fisher as Belle and Dana Levine as Mrs. Potts. 

For several members of the Solon High School Drama Club, the school’s 2008 performance of the musical “Beauty and the Beast” was a sparkling introduction to the dramatic arts.

“I saw the show and it was awesome,” senior Amanda Kim recalled recently. A couple of years later she began participating in theater.

“The 2008 version was the first play I saw here,” added senior Kyle Maiorana. “Coming full circle is pretty cool.”

Amanda, 17, a veteran of Drama Club productions, will share the role of Babette, the French-accented, flirtatious feather duster with senior Zoe Drasner when “Beauty and the Beast” is revisited on the Solon stage after 11 years. Kyle, 17, plays Cogsworth, the bossy mantel clock. The show opens tonight (Thursday) in the high school auditorium and runs through the weekend.

“It felt like the right time to do the show again for so many reasons,” said Drama Club Director Kristina J. Ferencie. “First, we have a fabulous cast that can step up to the challenge.” The originally planned cast of 50 has grown to 64, including a half dozen roles that are double cast, she said. With the vast talent available, “they are forcing us to add on.”

The show is an interesting companion piece to “The Scarlet Letter,” which Drama Club performed last fall, Ms. Ferencie added. Both productions feature strong female roles. “It’s so important to show a woman who is not just strong but in control of who she is.”

“Beauty and the Beast,” which had a Broadway run that stretched from 1994 to 2007, features music by Alan Menken and lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice. It is based on the book by Linda Woolverton and adapted from Walt Disney Pictures’ 1991 animated musical film. The stage production combines the Academy Award-winning song “Beauty and the Beast” and seven other memorable tunes from the film with several additional songs such as the Beast’s “If I Can’t Love Her,” Gaston’s “Me” and Belle’s “Home.”

In the story based on the original French fairytale written by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont, Belle is taken prisoner in a castle where an enchantress has transformed a selfish prince into an unsightly Beast. The Beast can revert to his human form only after he has learned to love Belle and is loved by her in return.

Joelle Fisher, a junior who had the female lead in the fall play and senior Andrea Friedberg share the role of Belle.

“Belle was a role model for me,” said Andrea. “I can’t tell you the number of times I watched the movie and I saw the show as well.”

The beast is played by junior Giovanni Castiglione and senior J. R. Heckman, both veterans of the Solon stage.

Giovanni said the process that the Beast must go through is fascinating. “I love the transformation that Belle (sets in motion) by making him more human.”

Both Giovanni and J. R. have portrayed animals before, but they agree this role is different.

“I’m excited to dive into physical acting and put that together with the emotions of the Beast,” said J. R., who has won two of Playhouse Square’s John and Patricia Chapman Dazzle Awards for lead roles in Solon Drama Club musicals.

Jeremiah Egolf, a senior, is excited to portray Belle’s arrogant suitor Gaston. “The role has always been on my bucket list, and it’s the perfect time to play the misogynous villain. He has hilarious lines, but he’s a terrible person.”

The motherly, compassionate Mrs. Potts is performed by senior Dana Levine and junior Julia Polster. “She keeps the energy up,” said Dana. “She’s positive throughout the whole story.”

Jake Ressler, a senior, portrays Belle’s father Maurice. “It’s a pivotal role,” Jake said. “He tells Belle it’s OK to be different. He’s different too.”

Rounding out the cast are Miranda Kinsell as the beggar/enchantress; Jacob Craddock, baker; Isaac Lieber, bookseller; Tyler Murray and Chad Ressler, LeFou; Jonathan Gembarski, Monsieur D’Arque; Jack Kasper, Lumiere; Mira Atwah and Cece Bettinger, Chip; and Meredith Kinsell, Madame de la Grande Bouche.

Gary Lewis is music director; Kristy Cruz, choreographer, Joseph M. Ferencie, technical director; Gerald MacDougall, pit orchestra director; and Gwendolyn Scott, rehearsal accompanist. Andrew Moughan serves as production stage manager; Jessica Hrich and Chatura Tamirisakandala, assistant stage managers; and Destiney Coe, Olivia Howell and Megan Wiser, dance captains.

Showtimes are 7 p.m. today (Thursday), Friday and Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $16 for adults, $12 for seniors and students, except for opening night, when Solon student tickets are $5. Solon senior citizens are admitted free to all shows with proof of Solon residency. To purchase tickets and select seats online, visit www.solon.es/beast.

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