'Beauty & the Beast' a transformative experience
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'Beauty & the Beast' a transformative experience

Mar 15, 2012

A transformative experience

'Beauty & the Beast' a transformative experience

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Posted: Thursday, March 15, 2012 3:00 am | Updated: 12:20 am, Thu Mar 15, 2012.

CORFU -- "Beauty and the Beast," a tale of love and sacrifice with roots in a 1740s French fairytale, has been told and retold in book, film and stage form over the centuries and around the world. This weekend the Pembroke Theater Arts Department will present an adaptation of Disney's 1991 film version. Shows are scheduled for 7:30 tonight and Friday and 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the high school, 8750 Alleghany Rd. This is director Dan Reisdorf's sixth musical since he returned to lead his alma mater's music department seven years ago. He says "Beauty and the Beast" is lighter fare than the last two shows -- "Fiddler on the Roof" and "Phantom of the Opera," but he notes there is an element of the "dark side" in the personalities of the Beast and Gaston, who vie Belle's love, and the mob-mentality of the villagers calling for the Beast's destruction. While the Beast slowly turns from anger and boorishness to love and gentleness through Belle's kindness, Gaston does the reverse, regressing from egotistical hulk to raging madman when his overtures to Belle go unrequited. Reisdorf said one "transformation" he has seen during the production won't be obvious to the audience -- that of Trevor Gray's development as an actor. Gray, a senior, who plays the Beast who becomes the Prince, has just one previous stage credit from last year's Phantom production. "It is a different experience. I'm more used to sports. It is a lot different than out on the football field or the basketball court," Gray said, admitting he was a lot more comfortable in those two venues. His athletic ability has, he said, proved an advantage in the physically challenging role of the Beast. The Beast's stage conversion to the handsome Prince involves some acrobatic moves requiring strength and agility. But it is Gray's connection with the emotional elements of his part, his growth as an actor and the added dimension that brings to his performance that have impressed Reisdorf. Senior Brett Jones, who had the lead as the enigmatic Phantom in last year's show, plays the muscle-bound, overbearing Gaston, relentlessly pursuing the lovely Belle. He said getting into Gaston's self-absorbed, brute of a character was difficult. "It was quite a switch around (from the Phantom role). At first glance, they seem completely opposite, but I found them also the same -- both fighting for the girl and neither one getting her in the end." Jones said. "I'm getting used to losing the girl," he joked. Kayla Underwood, who plays Belle, said she is really friends with Trevor off-stage so it has been fun developing her on-stage character's loving relationship with the Beast, while fending off Gaston's insistent, unwanted advances. The mix of real and "animated object" characters has made costuming intriguing. Those playing objects are encumbered by weighty or awkwardly-shaped costumes -- which arrived almost a week later than expected, adding to rehearsal challenges. Students playing inanimate object characters rehearsed "in the shape" of their parts, Reisdorf said. Still, donning the costumes for the first time made for some amusing discoveries. Sarah Hill, playing the teapot Mrs. Potts, found out she had practiced using the wrong arm as her teapot spout. "You really have to get into the character," she said. "It is a little different to do it without, but awesome with it." Ryan Curtis, who plays the tea cup Chip, was also surprised at his costume. "I have a stool in there," he said, noting the tea cart. "It's just fun overall." Julie Neff (Babette, the Feather Duster) said she felt "fluffy," an appropriate response to her costume feathers. "I just want to dance all the time," she said -- something she gets to do in her part. As Lumiere, Joe Babcock was enjoying his role as the flamboyant candelabra. "It's always a privilege to be able to perform," said Joe, a veteran of four Pembroke musicals. His character has the added challenge of speaking in a French accent, something he found "very difficult" but mastered using films clips and sound tracks. Brendan O'Shea was succinct when asked what challenge his Cogsworth, the Clock character, presented. "Walking," he replied, noting the costume weighs at least 40 pounds. While cast and crew opened boxes and made adjustments to the newly arrived costumes, the auditorium, and the stage filled with partially completed sets and scaffolding, reverberated with a hum of excitement, the fun atmosphere of this production and the anticipation of opening night. Reisdorf said everyone in the production is grateful for the support of the community and financial assistance of the Pembroke Music Boosters. A Quick Look WHAT: "Disney's Beauty and the Beast," a production by Pembroke Central School students. WHERE: Pembroke Central School, 8750 Alleghany Rd., Corfu. WHEN: 7:30 tonight and Friday and 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday. TICKETS: $10 for adults, $7 for students and seniors, in advance. Available at the Pembroke Music Boosters website, www.pembrokemusicboosters.org, by calling (585) 599-4525 Ext. 1605 and, if available, at the door. Some performances were nearing sell-out. 
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