Where the inside of my mind leaks onto the screen.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Beauty and the Beast: the Untold Version

Once upon a time...

There was a charming theater in the heart of Magna with big plans to produce Beauty and the Beast, Jr. as its youth theater production.  The kids were excited about the show, hoping to play their dream roles of "Belle" and "Gaston" and excited to sing the iconic songs they've loved for so long.  But little did they know that hidden behind beautiful melodies and catchy production numbers was a show so complex, filled with near-impossible logistics and dangerous pitfalls.  The production staff was given a magical rose, and a powerful spell was placed on the theater: if they could pull off the production before the last petal fell, the opening night's show would be infused with magic, transforming this beast of a show into a true beauty.

This was to be either a group success or a group failure as an entire team set out to remove the spell.  As Andrea went to work placing the bodies and voices of 67 kids on the stage, Jake, Michele, and Marie worked to gather, build, and create set pieces, costumes, and props.  An entire team of costumers slaved to make 7 spoons, 8 forks, 4 plates, 5 cups, 13 napkins, 2 whisks, and a whole host of other kitchen costumes.  Devon painted castle-ish brick throughout the theater and Amy painted book after book after book in the library.  Lisa provided schedules, organization, and worked hard to be the enforcer of Andrea's vision.  Katie helped support the fragile emotional health of the cast.  Jamie gave the soloists individual vocal attention.  Curtis balanced work and family to find time to set the show's lighting.  And Alex and Arvid stood at the ready to support some of the cast's youngest members.

Even with such a solid team, the setbacks were many.  Andrea had to call in the calvary (the Casdorph family) to lend additional microphones, to finish the town's fountain and to build turrets.  The blocking had to be carefully orchestrated to accommodate large costumes that didn't fit in many of the Empress's entrances.  Safety was a big issue as cast member after cast member tripped, fell, twisted, bruised, and otherwise injured themselves during rehearsals.  Twice, the Wardrobe fell over, once falling down a few stairs (a literal "wardrobe malfunction.")  Costume changes for Belle proved to be nearly impossible, and it took nearly two full days of rehearsal to get the scene changes down to a reasonable speed.

And those were just the expected issues.  There were bee stings, a lunchtime scare with a worm in a plum, school registration conflicts during dress rehearsals, the hospitalization of the stage manager, and one cast members lost her grandmother during the final week of rehearsal.  There was a mix-up with the art design for the show, and it took a whole team of people to make sure there were programs for opening night.

At every moment, the youth in the program worked tirelessly, holding up emotionally and physically through long days of rehearsal.  They supported each other, worked to solve their own problems, and delivered consistently great characters and dances.  They sang their hearts out time after time and tried to deliver dynamic performances to empty theater seats.

As the magical rose petals continued to fall, the team worked tirelessly to put the final details into place.  Getting very few hours of sleep, emotions ran high and tears were ready to fall.  With only one petal left to fall, there were still a few costumes unfinished and no magic mirror.  Miracle after miracle happened as hero after hero stepped in to offer assistance.  Logan stayed up all night to make the mirror.  Kaylynn repaired torn costumes.  Kirk ran to Kinkos thirty minutes before show to print the promotional pictures for the lobby.  Brett added additional music to the curtain call soundtrack.  Cast members pulled together to provide last-minute costume details.

And the last petal fell.

Time was up, and it was too late to do anything more to break the spell.  As the lights went down on stage and the music for the prologue began, it was time to see if the colossal efforts had been enough.

The lights came up and the audience hushed, and moment by moment the magic built.  Every moment of preparation came together for an incredible performance, so much better than any run through had been.  The cast added energy to what before had been stoic consistency, and the enthusiastic audience added a whole new magical element.  Each production number was bigger and better than the last, and several moments in the show stood out as truly magical.  Belle descending the stairs in her yellow dress.  Lefou's cheerleader-toss into Gaston's arms at the end of "Gaston."  67 kids, arms extended exactly as directed, faces beaming as they collected their hard-earned applause.  Parents, families and friends, standing in appreciation of the magic delivered.

And just like the Beast in the Disney Movie, the show ascended with light streaming in every direction, elevated to something it could only have dreamed of being.  The Empress Youth Theatre cast and production crew transformed a logistical beast into a thing of beauty.

Of course it wasn't a perfect show.  But opening night, performed for a sold-out audience, was pretty darn near.  And knowing the literal blood, sweat, and tears that have been left on the stage, the story couldn't be more personal.  So to those who brought the magic, to those who lent support in moments of breakdown, and to those who were there opening night to witness the magical transformation, thank you for being a part of a story still being written.  I can't wait to see what will happen as the page turns tonight.

The End


The Linnett Log said...

Wow! Tears are running down my face as I am reading this! Thank you so much Andrea and everyone for letting my son be apart of the magic! It really was wonderful!!!! You certainly have a way with theater, music, dance, the kids, and as this post proves with words! Congrats!

Sarah said...

That's a kind comment above! What impactful project you take on.
You didn't literally have a rose for the cast to watch petals drop from, did you? Would have been a cool visual...but I'm sure that opening night was pressure enough.
Glad that it worked out so well! Congrats on another huge success!

Sarah said...

*projectS, plural! You take on a log of projectS!