Beauty and the Beast

by DICK KEREKES
The 4th annual high school summer musical theatre experience sponsored by the FCCJ Artist Series and the Nathan H. Wilson Center for the Arts, opened Disney’s Beauty and the Beast on Thursday July 23 and running to the 26th. The ever growing popularity of this summer time treat was evidenced by every performance being SOLD OUT, before the curtain went up opening night.
When Director Shirley Sacks, who directed last year’s selection Damm Yankees approached Managing Producer/Program Director Beth Harvey about the 2009 show and suggested Beauty, Beth could only say, “Wow, that is big and expensive, but we CAN do it!” Indeed, they could and did, with a magnificent production, that was top notch from top to bottom.
There were 180 students of middle and high schools from all over North Florida and even Georgia that auditioned, with 80 selected. Another 35 applied to work behind the scenes. All total 109 students were invovled in putting the final product on the stage.
Since this is mostly an after the fact review, I will skip a detailed plot summary, since most readers are familiar with this sixteenth century French fairy tale, through the ever popular l991 movie and the much praised Broadway musical that opened in l994.
Yes, it opens with “once upon a time” and closes with everyone living happily ever after but in between we meet some colorful characters, that include silly girls, wolves, dancing dishes, spoons, talking clocks, tea pots, the list goes on and on. Some of the specialty costumes were rented, but costumers Camala Pitts and Dorinda Quiles, of Jacksonville{s The Costume Crew, created the other visually gorgeous creations.
I have come to expect great sets in these productions and Scenic Designer Johnny Pettegrew and Scene Shop Supervisor did not disappoint. I was especially impressed by the number of large drop in backgrounds, that must have taken hours and hours of painting by the talented students. I wish FCCJ would post photos of the various scenes somewhere on the internet so everyone could appreciate them.
Fletcher graduate and now University of Central Florida student, David Paul Kidder, did some amazing choreography, that was truly exciting and colorful. Kidder knows Disney, as he dances part time at Walt Disney World in Orlando. Yes, indeed, the dancing was dazzling!!
Music Director Scott Gregg conducted the student orchestra that numbered 12, that played to perfection. There were so many excellent performances by not only the leading characters but all of the cast, it is impossible to point out all the highlights. Indeed, all the voices were wonderful.
I have seen this show several times over the years on professional stages, in Daytona Beach, Orlando and Jacksonville, and I can honestly say Sarah Bartley as Belle and Jacob Rothman as the Beast sang beautifully and as good if not better than any two leads I have ever heard anywhere!
I have seen Nicholas Sacks in a number of roles locally, but the Douglas Anderson sophomore really got to stretch his vocal wings (and his muscles!) as the brash egomaniac Gaston. Also very impressive in the vocal department were Maissa Kayal as Mrs. Potts, Dominique Allen Lawson as Lefou, Zachary Ragland as Lumiere and Alec Hadden as Cogsworth. I am sure I am probably overlooking others, but when you are under the spell of such a special musical it is hard to take notes.
The principal supporting case, in no particular order included: Austen Weitzel, Taylor W. Smith, Katie Oswell, Cole Marshall, Sara Samuels, Josh Stevens, Shala Brewer, Courtnee Alexis Carter, Douglas Chappelle, Cori Clark, Alex Johnson, Alexander Zane Farabee, Michael Single, Alessandra Feliciano,Victoria Messick, Jenna Timko, Stacy Schoonover, Taylor McKenzie Smith Jr., Ash Tilak, Wezzie Phelan, Jacob Pickering, Chris Valade and J’royce Denard Walton.
FEMALE VILLAGERS: Emma Kate Alpert, Shala Brewer, Danielle Demeza, Oliva Donalson, Taylor English, Courtney Graham, Caroline Hunt, Kimberly Hunter, Lizzie Levy, Tiffany Levy, Tess Pelaia, Mary Polidan , Katie Sacks and Amanda Severson.
MALE VILLAGERS: Brian Alford, Brandon Ballew, Danny Ford, Phillip Harville, JuCoby Johnson, Rico Lastrapes, Christian Nyman, Greer Pelaia, Griffin Pelaia, Jacob Schuman, Joseph Sykes-Burns,and William Thompson III.
SILLY GIRLS: Gianna Cifredo,Kirsta Hewlett, Hannah Hinson, Lisa Kidder, Justine Marrero, Kate Phelan, Amelia Strickland, Elizabeth Wells and Lily Zawatsky.
WOLVES: Rebekah Peltz, Amanda Gomer, Josh Matos, Sydney Yeoman, and Brandon Ballew.
GARGOYLES: Spicer Carr, Phillip Harville, and Griffin Pelaia.
TEACUPS: Shanaya Dixon, Samantha Jones, Kaitlin Rafay, Ash Tilak, and Sidney Yeoman
DANCING DISHES: Kimberly Hunter, Lizzie Levy, Amanda Severson, and Kate Phelan
FLATWARE: Danny Ford, Rico Lastrapes, Jacob Pickering, and Spicer Carr.
PLATES: Christy Mull, Gianna Cifredo and Ashley Turner.
NAPKINS: Emma Kate Alpert, Courtnee Carter, Lisa Kidder, Tiffany Levy, Rebekah Peltz, and Elizabeth Wells
COLUMNS: Christian Nyman, Jacob Shuman, WilliamThompson III, and J’royce Denard Walton.
PLACEMATS: Amanda Gomer and Josh Matos
VASES: Oliva Donaldson and Aja Gentry.
Thanks to the incomparable Director Shirley Sacks’s inspired direction, and Stage Manager John McCloskey’s efficient back stage crew, this was a fast paced almost flawless production. There were a couple of small mike feedback occasions, but I am sure these were worked out in the remaining shows.
I think that this production may have set a new record for the number of cast members in the show. I read about a high school in Seattle using 72 actors, but FCCJ’s had about 80. If I missed anyone, please forgive me, the excellent program is as large as a small town phone book. Thanks Beth Harvey of Wilson Center, and FCCJ Artist Series, for another marvelous evening of musical theatre with many of the future stars in the theatre world in years to come.

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october, 2021

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