Presenting 'Beauty and the Beast' | February 22, 2008 | Danville Express | |

Danville Express

Living - February 22, 2008

Presenting 'Beauty and the Beast'

Blood, sweat and tears bring Disney production to life

by Natalie O'Neill

Kyle Vamvouris steps downstage with a dramatic thump. In character as Cogsworth, the talking English clock from Disney's "Beauty and the Beast," he's giving a tour of the Beast's 17th century castle.

"Like I always say, if it ain't 'baroque,' don't fix it," he says, breaking into a loud congratulatory laugh, in character, at his own joke.

Vamvouris is running lines before rehearsal even starts, to get ready for Monte Vista High School's most demanding production of the year: a musical of version of "Beauty and the Beast," running Feb. 27-29.

In the drama room, two weeks before the curtain goes up, the teenage actors and dancers are chatting and practicing their lines. Technicians are talking about lighting, and stage designers are doing touch-ups on sections of the set.

"OK, everybody circle up!" Vicki Stadelhofer, the drama teacher, announces.

The cast slowly makes its way to the center of the room, forming more of a dented kidney shape.

"Ladies and gentlemen, here's what we're gonna do," she says. "We'll run dialogue as far as we can go." Faint piano notes from the theater carry into the hallway outside.

Stadelhofer may be supervising the rehearsal and getting kids on the same page, but when it comes down to it, it's their project, she says. The play is student produced - directed, choreographed, designed and musically performed - and its success completely rests on the group of 75 teenagers.

And this is exactly what makes the kids want to give it everything they've got - it's totally up to them.

"We've put our blood, sweat and tears into this," Vamvouris says. Elisabeth Evans, who's playing a villager, says she likes that everybody's in it together.

"We're the same age and it's like a community, there's no dominating," she says. "It's not like a caste system."

Evita Betpera, student lighting director, hears Evans and adds her 2 cents.

"It's a drama-ocracy," she says with a smile.

Since the show is put together by students, they know what their audience of peers wants to see, the actors say.

Plot of the play and music stays true to Walt Disney's version, released as an animation in 1991.

The Beast, who was once a prince, was turned into a monster as a punishment for being cruel. And he must remain that way until he can love and be loved by another.

After he captures Beauty's (Belle's) father, she offers herself as his prisoner instead. The play then follows Belle as she realizes the Beast may not be as frightening as he looks - that he might actually be worthy of her love.

Orchestra director Ed Cloyd will lead the student orchestra in songs that Disney aficionados will likely want to hum along to.

"The orchestra sounds just like the CD - it's unbelievable," Stadelhofer says.

Set design is done entirely by the school's stagecraft class. Many of the costumes are bought, sewn and donated by parents.

Typically a musical like this takes months of rigorous after-school rehearsal, even when directed by adults. But not with this production of "Beauty and the Beast."

"I have a secret," Stadelhofer says, like she's in on a scheme. "I start it all in play production class."

Leads in the production with be Jamie Siedman as Belle, Grant Nadji as the Beast, Jack Schramm as Gaston, Sara Schiff as Mrs. Potts, Addison Heimann as Luimier, and Kyle Vamouris as Cogsworth.

"They have so much talent," Stadelhofer says of the whole cast.

On stage at Monte Vista

What: 'Beauty and the Beast,' a musical

Who: Monte Vista High School drama department

Where: Monte Vista's Al Gentile Theater, 3131 Stone Valley Road

When: 7:30 p.m., Wednesday-Friday, Feb. 27-29

Cost: $15 for adults and students; $12 for students with ASB cards; $10 for children

Information: Call 552-5530