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 They have been replaced by wolves, gargoyles and an adorable talking teacup for the presentation of “Disney’s Beauty and The Beast.”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.