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The Shippensburg high school Drama Club presents Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” next week, complete with ambitious sets and numbers in what the new director promises to be a “spectacle with heart.” Middle school students will join their older mentors in the performances, and young children in attendance can dress as their favorite Disney character.

The club will perform Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” at the Shippensburg high school auditorium on Thursday, March 3, at 7 p.m.; Friday, March 4, at 7 p.m.; and Saturday, March 5, at 2 and 7 p.m.

Based on the Academy Award-winning animated film, the stage production of “Beauty and the Beast” features the songs from the film and several more, according to Director Luke Reed, who took over for Kathy Hewitt this year. Reed is a 2007 graduate of Shippensburg high school who performed in many productions with the Drama Club, and he graduated from the theater program at the University of Massachusetts.

Reed said this production is one of the most ambitious sets the high school has ever done. A tree and a giant staircase that can also serve as a bridge are the most prominent set pieces on stage, and crewmembers have been busy creating sets for the castle, shops and ballroom, among others. The club has teamed up with the high school’s 3-D art classes to create props like shadow puppets for the inventive prologue.

Reed estimated about 60 high school students are in the cast and crew to put on the production. The effort is led by Reed and choreographer Heather Holtry, vocal director Amy Jones, production manager Suzanne Lloyd, orchestra conductor Robert Maag, and student director Krissy Esch.

The students have been rehearsing after school since January. Last Wednesday was special because it was the first time the students were able to try on their costumes. Reed was able to obtain period clothing from some friends, the Chambersburg Community Theatre and the “Costume Loft” in Waynesboro managed by Kay Yaukey.

Belle & the Beast

Taking a break from dress rehearsal were the two main characters, Belle, played by senior Andrea Crawford, and the Beast, played by junior Luke Hershey. In the story, Belle, a smart, young woman is taken prisoner in the castle of a selfish prince who has been cursed and transformed into a hideous beast until he can learn to love and be loved in return.

Luke said they are still putting together his transformation into the Beast, but the young man with long, dark hair hinted he would have horns. Andrea said she hasn’t seen the gold-colored ball gown yet, but Belle’s every day blue dress looks great. She’s hoping to find an apron to complete the look.

Andrea is no stranger to the spotlight as she takes on the high school’s lead female role for an astonishing fourth year in a row. In the past, she has played Maria in “West Side Story,” Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz,” and Ariel in “Footloose.”

“It’s a really big honor to be chosen for a lead role,” she said, adding she loves acting and singing. The petite young woman with a great smile said it was dream to play a Disney princess, and she’s looking forward to seeing many Disney princesses in the audience.

“They will feel like a princess and be embarking on this Disney journey with us,” she said.

Luke said it has been a lot of fun putting together the American classic they have all grown up watching. It’s his first lead role since he played Charlie in the middle school’s production of “Willy Wonka Jr.”

“Being in a lead role, there are a lot of nerves with it,” he said. “It’s a very conflicting experience because what you portray on the outside may not be what’s on the inside.”

Andrea agreed and likened the feeling of going on stage the first time to getting the wind knocked out of you. After the first bits of dialogue and song, she said she gets more confident and comfortable in the role.

They both said they really enjoyed Reed’s observational directing style where he asks questions and his ability to bring everything together.

“He really is about digging into the character,” Luke said, adding he wants the actors to bring out emotions instead of just reciting the words on the page.

“Both Andrea and Luke demonstrate a rare professionalism in their craft,” Reed said. “I believe acting to be the single most revealing art form, demanding one to hold nothing back. Andrea and Luke are fearless when it comes to sharing themselves with the audience and their scene partners. It's quite an impressive and striking sight to see two young adults be so open, honest, and uninhibited. Many teenagers do not know how to express themselves truthfully and clearly, but these two are prime examples of why dramatic arts are so essential in the education of our rising generation.”

Supporting cast

The supporting cast of characters is also very excited for the upcoming production.

Junior Titus Manetta takes on the role of Gaston, the burly hunter who aims to marry Belle, but his chauvinistic ways fail to win her heart. Titus, sporting a black beard, has a booming voice on stage.

“I love acting,” he said. “I hope to keep doing it once I get out of high school.”

He recalls fighting on stage for hours during rehearsals and loving it even though he was sore the next day.

“I don’t want it to end,” he said. “It’s the best show I’ve ever been in.”

Gaston’s sidekick, LeFou, is played by junior David Hewitt. The homeschooled student is tall and thin, in contrast to the stumpy character in the movie, and Hewitt’s lively acting adds a funny dimension to the role.

“Theater is my life,” he said. “This is the most fun role I’ve ever played.”

David also helps to make props for the production, like the enchanted roses and candle hands for Lumiere.

Luke Lyman, sophomore, will take on the role of Lumiere, the funny and charismatic candelabra. He has been acting since the third or fourth grade and was glad to be taking on his first comedic role.

He emphasized that Reed was putting a lot of work into the production and helping him dig into the character.

“Drama Club is an undiscovered beauty here at the high school,” he said. “Everyone is working really hard and it’s coming together.”

Christopher Lloyd plays Lumiere’s friend, Cogsworth, the funny and knowledgeable clock. The senior said he was very excited to finally have a speaking role in a high school production.

“I’m on stage a lot. I talk a lot. I’m nervous, but at the same time I’m super excited,” he said.

Senior Hannah Famulare is playing Babette, the flirtatious feather duster. The Art Honor Society president also helps with makeup, hair, and some costuming.

“It’s going really well. I’ve had the most fun. Luke (Reed) is fantastic,” she said, adding the cast was really close-knit.

Jacqueline Ferrell, senior, will play Mrs. Potts, the motherly teapot that is nurturing and wise. Jacqueline has participated in plays in the past, but this was her first year with a speaking part. She said she was very nervous at the beginning, but now things are going pretty well.

Stephanie Jones, junior, takes on the part of the Wardrobe, the sassy piece of furniture.

“I’m really enjoying it so far. It’s low stress,” she said. She has been acting since 6th grade and said it was nice to play a sassy character instead of a motherly role like in the past.

Other lead roles include Belle’s father, Maurice, played by Matthew Rhine, and Chip, the teacup, played by Yvette Paey.

Dozens of middle school students will join the Drama Club for the “Be Our Guest” number and another part of the production. Most of the students are from the middle school’s upcoming production of “Shrek the Musical Jr.”

“It was to create a sense of mentorship and community in the theater program,” Reed said of including the middle schoolers. He hopes they have fun while experiencing what it’s like to be part of the high school’s production. Middle school teachers Jennifer Deibler and John Piper helped to coordinate the effort.

Tickets

Tickets for the shows are general admission. An adult ticket costs $8 and $6 for students, seniors, and children ages 3 and older. Children age 2 and younger get in for free. Any student or child age 10 and younger who dress as their favorite Disney character will receive $2 off their ticket price.

“I just hope to create a really festive atmosphere,” Reed said of children dressing as characters.

Tickets can be purchased the day of the show. Tickets are also on sale Monday, Feb. 29, and Tuesday, March 1, from 6 to 8 p.m. each day at the high school’s box office located near the high school auditorium. 

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