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Be Their Guest
Written by Kelly Kalb Correspondent
2017-03-01

Isabella Ryan in her stage debut as Belle and Conor Raftery as the Beast rehearse a scene for the UPHS Drama Club's production of Disney's "Beauty and the Beast."

UPHS Drama Club to Present "Beauty and the Beast"

        In a tale as old as time, the Upper Perkiomen High School Drama Club is bringing Disney's "Beauty and the Beast" to the stage March 9 through 12.

        After many long hours spent in rehearsals, learning dance steps and songs, and building moveable sets, students are anxious and excited for their hard work to hit the stage.

        This year's production, chosen by high school drama club directors and teachers Alicia Austin and Colby Philips, provides a look into the fantasy world that Disney productions are known to articulate to their audiences.

        Many are familiar with the story line of "Beauty and the Beast," but the adaptations are what tend to draw a crowd. With Disney's movie version coming to theaters soon, the timing couldn't be better.

        The classic version tells the story of Belle, a young woman in a provincial town, and the Beast, a young prince trapped under a spell. The curse will end if the Beast is able to love and be loved, which will transform him back into his princely self. The Beast's household will also be doomed if time runs out.

        Belle will be portrayed by sophomore Isabella Ryan and the Beast by senior Conor Raftery, who has contributed to prior productions with the UPHS Drama Club.

        Ryan will certainly be busy in her stage debut during the four-day run of the production with four costume changes per show.

        "I'm not a stranger to theatre because my grandmother was a theatre teacher and I always loved helping out. But this is my first high school production," Ryan said.

        "The only thing that really makes me nervous are the nights my family is here to watch me perform," Raftery admits.

        This year, Raftery created a short film to present to the audience with a brief history of "Beauty and the Beast" before the actors hit the stage. This is one of many differences from previous years' productions.

        There will be no live orchestra this time around. Austin and Philips explained that the biggest complaint in previous years was the orchestra being louder than the actors, which made it hard to hear the speaking roles. Also, in an effort to save money, the costumes were rented instead of purchased or constructed by volunteers.

        "I spent hours this summer contacting theatre houses asking for rental quotes and pricing out costs if we decided to build our own. We found that renting from The Theatre Company fit our needs and our price point. Renting was more economical since the Enchanted costumes are expensive to build or purchase. Additionally, we try to only purchase or build costumes that can be used again. A teapot, candlestick and clock have limited uses," Austin explained.

        Every year the UPHS Drama Club presents a musical performance; however, this production has a unique quality in that this is the first time a student, senior Cody Wolfe, designed and built 90 percent of the set.

        Philips said Wolfe came highly recommended by the high school shop teachers because of his ability to design and build just about anything thrown at him.

        "This is my first year being involved in this type of thing. I was given a list of things they needed built and I just drew it up and started building with the help of Jim Raftery and some other people," Wolfe said.

        He admits the most difficult thing to build was a mechanical rose that sits on a wooden table. "I spent countless hours designing the rose. There are gears that move and a string that allows the pedals to drop." Wolfe also constructed a robot that hangs in the rafters, which drops a duck prop for one of the scenes in the production.

        Set design in the production has shifted from the traditional large stationary set pieces in previous years to moveable pieces, Austin said.

        "Since our set has so many pieces, our stage management team, Francesca Glackin (junior) and Jackson Gray (sophomore), have the arduous task of creating the scene transition choreography. Figuring out the logistics of scene changes of this magnitude is very difficult. Who and what is moving something off the stage, while new pieces are moving on the stage, coupled with limited wing space and only one set of 9-foot double doors in the pitch blackness really is a daunting task. Our crew has spent hours organizing and rehearsing these changes so that the audience believes in the magic of theatre."

        Madison Undercuffler, a junior, said her Cogsworth costume created some challenges with fitting through certain set pieces but will likely not be an issue opening night.

        Overall, students admit to some nervousness prior to the production but, as junior Max Gorman, who plays Gaston, explains, "The nerves have gone away a little. And while singing with Belle, I just play off of her and have fun."

        Feelings of excitement, having fun and the sense of coming together as a family are what students talk about most often. But there is also a sense of intimidation felt by some, such as freshman Mason Powers, who plays LeFou.

        "It is a bit intimidating being a freshman and some pressure to keep up so I can keep getting good roles," Powers said.

        Powers was able to alleviate some nerves by working with vocal coach Mary Lee Slemmer, who returned for this year's production. Also returning this year to choreograph the dance scenes is Jen Dancy, local dance studio owner.

        New to this year's production is professional makeup artist Alaina Klee, who taught the students how to apply their own makeup.

        Regardless of how much time is spent in preparation for a musical production, the dedication is evident in all efforts made by students, parents, teachers, and volunteers.

        The level of dedication is high because, as Austin explains, "Theatre is very much a business and since we are a self-sufficient group, meaning our funds come from ticket sales and fundraising (no district money is allocated to the drama club), we needed to select a show that would capture the imagination of the Valley.  We have been wanting to do another well-known fairy tale but needed to wait until we had sufficient funds to put on a large scale Disney production. Last year when we heard that Disney was making a live action version of "Beauty and the Beast" that was set for release the week after our show, we seized the opportunity to have Disney's marketing machine behind us."

        Purchasing the rights to perform a bigger-named production such as this cost $5,000, but with advanced ticket sales already higher than previous years, the hope for substantial profits to carry over and help fund next year's production is great.

        Show dates and times are as follows: March 9, 10, and 11 at 7 p.m., and March 12 at 2 p.m. Student night is March 9 and the children's show is March 12.

        Purchase tickets online at http://www.recitalticketing.com/24782/ or at the door; $10 center seating and $8 general admission.

        For more information on how to made donations to the UPHS Drama Club, contact Alicia Austin at aaustin@upsd.org or Colby Philips at cphilips@upsd.org.


 

 

 

 

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