NEW CASTLE — (Video screen appears at bottom of the story.)
One again Mohawk High School students will transport their spring musical audiences to a magical, mystical place.
Gone are witches, a cowardly lion and munchkins from last year’s “Wizard of Oz.” They have been replaced by wolves, gargoyles and an adorable talking teacup for the presentation of “Disney’s Beauty and The Beast.”
It will be director Jim McKim’s 35th musical in as many years as the school. “I’m enjoying this year’s cast,” said McKim, who is assisted by Mohawk graduate and track coach Justin Addicott. “They’re pleasant and respond positively to everything that is asked of them,”
The cast was finalized in November and there was one rehearsal prior to Christmas. When preparations began in earnest six weeks ago, McKim said students came in knowing their lines with songs memorized.
There are 52 students in the production, including one precocious second grader, Marc Conti, in the role of Chip, the talking teacup. “He will steal your heart,” McKim predicts.
McKim sought recommendations from elementary teachers in the school district and interviewed four elementary students before deciding.
“We needed someone who was outgoing, confident and could sing in pitch,” McKim said. “Marc was all of that and more.”
And Marc isn’t the only member of his family in the play. His sister, Christina, an eighth grader, landed a lead role of Belle.
DRESSING THE PART
“It takes a year to prepare for a play like this,” McKim said. “You have to rent specialty costumes and backdrops and book them early.”
Philip Fry likely will feel the heat when he pulls on the costume that transforms him into the Beast.
“I imagine it might get pretty hot in there wearing all that fur, especially dancing and moving around,” said the junior who is performing in his first high school play.
Fry, like other cast members, has been rehearsing without the benefit of the wardrobe.
But Fry said when he’s on stage, he transforms into the character even without the props. “I feel like I’m him,” he said.
At 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds, Fry — a lineman on the Warriors’ football team — has the necessary physical presence. Still he was surprised at being chosen for the role.
“I tried out, but had no idea what I might get,” he said. “When the list was posted, people who saw it came to tell me. They were really excited and so was I.”
Since most people know the Beast in the animated movie classic, Fry said his biggest challenge is to show both sides of the Beast. There’s the ferocious outer shell that houses a rough demeanor, but underneath is a heart of gold.
“The Beast is overwhelmed with emotions that he doesn’t understand,” said Fry. “He’s confused by it all,” said Fry.
The cast has watched clips from the broadway show to learn more about how the characters are portrayed on stage.
“The director gives me insight and we all feed off each other’s ideas,” Fry said.
Senior Vince Galiardo has been a fan of the Disney movie since he was first saw it more than a decade ago.
“I was so excited about doing the play,” he said. “That’s the reason I tried out.”
Galiardo plays Gaston, whose character is just the opposite of the Beast — appealing on the outside, but lacking on the inside. And when it comes to women, Gaston proves to be extremely vain and rude. His attempts to be with Belle often result in disaster due to his chauvinistic behavior.
“Everyone’s expectations are so high,” said Galiardo, who unlike Fry, will not be weighed down with a bulky costume. “I only wear a wig.”
Galiardo promises the production will offer some “Disney magic.”
“The biggest challenge is meeting audience’s perception of characters they already have in their heads,” McKim said. “Comedy is hard to play. You have to be very serious in your role in order to be funny. We talk about that a lot.”
“Beauty and the Beast” Cast
Beast/Prince: Philip Fry
Belle: Christina Conti
Maurice: Andrew Henley
LeFou: Jared Hepler
Gaston: Vince Gagliardo
Lumiere: Joel Perry
Cogsworth: Matthew Montgomery
Mrs. Potts: Brianna Crawford
Chip: Marc Conti
Wardrobe: Casey Boyer
Babette: Jenna Natale
Enchantress: Paden Jones
D’Arque: Mitchell Long
Prince/Beast double: Mitchell Grim
Silly Girls: Paden Jones, Elizabeth Frketich, Danielle Kelty, Caitlyn Ponziani, Kelcy Seth
Napkins: Kayla Beatty, Katelyn Byers, Jamie Rafacz, Jamie Trotter
Wolves: Kayla Beatty, Casey Boyer, Katelyn Byers, Marcus Gurgiolo, Katherine Harding, Jamie Trotter
Ensemble Cast (Villagers, Dinnerware, Vendors, Mob): Kayla Beatty, Chelsye Bridegam, Katelyn Byers, Katie Callahan, Maggie Cosgrove, Alexis DeSantis, Matt Fleck, Fred Gadelmeyer, McKenzie Griffin, Mitchell Grim, Matthew Gubish, Marcus Gurgiolo, Katherine Harding, Paden Jones, Kayla Kelly, Danielle Kelty, Mitchell Long, Mike Maravola, Nathaniel McBride, Jessica Meyer, Caitlyn Ponziani, Jamie Rafacz, Megan Sensky, Kelcy Seth, Sarah Spann, Cara Trotter, Jamie Trotter, Cara Weaver, Michael Wiggins.