By MELISSA PILEIRO
Disney classics have always had a way of giving both children and adults a taste of magic. A few weeks ago, that magic came to life on the CCC stage as the Theatre Department presented the well-loved family musical, Beauty and the Beast.
The show is based on the extremely successful 1991 animated movie about Belle (played in the CCC production by Amanda Padro), the beautiful and odd young woman that just doesn’t fit in. An unexpected series of events leaves Belle the prisoner in an enchanted castle, whose master has been turned into a terrible beast (Richard T. Smith). Only mutual love can save Beast and the attendants of his castle, and Belle may just be the one they’ve all been waiting for.
Under the direction of Broadway veteran and CCC theatre professor Debbie Bradshaw, the cast of students, faculty and community members committed to months of rigorous rehearsals. Their work had appeared to have paid off long before the curtain rose. By the morning of the first show on April 23rd, tickets for all five performances had sold out.
For the cast of B&B, however, being a part of the show means a lot more than the number of seats filled or amount of money raised. Several cast members expressed their joy in being a part of a show that is a fond childhood memory for so many. Matt Kent calls Beauty and the Beast his favorite Disney classic. “What I love about it is that there are so many layers in the show that also exist in the real world,” he said. These layers of love, acceptance and personal identity can be appreciated by any age group, and is likely the reason for the show’s widespread popularity. Kent played the role of Gaston, the ridiculously good-looking and wildly vain man who could have had any woman he wanted–that is, except for classy Belle. Regarding his character, Kent said, “The Beast is hideous, yet changes into someone good. Gaston, on the other hand, is well-loved but is really a beast deep down.”
Tori Moratelli was cast in a comparatively minor role, and that was just the way she wanted it. “I really wanted to play Babette,” she said of her character, the castle’s ditzy and flirtatious feather duster. “At auditions there were so many girls trying out for Belle, but I wanted Babette. She’s the comic relief—funny and ditzy.” Having previous experience with the role helped as well; Moratelli also played Babette in a production of Beauty and the Beast with The Gabriel Project.
Both Matt and Tori said that having Bradshaw as a director was invaluable. “Shows with Deb go so much deeper,” Moratelli said, then explained, “Babette needed a French accent, sure, but what kind?” These little details end up becoming a huge contribution to the show. Matt added, “Deb is a wonderful director. She’s taught me so much.”
The impact that Bradshaw has had on her cast members extends far beyond the lead and supporting role; even the members of the ensemble have attested to her skill as a director and mentor. Samantha Williams said that “I did shows here before, and I really like working with Deb. All the shows that she’s done are phenomenal.”
After so many weeks of grueling rehearsals, it isn’t surprising that the cast members are no longer just colleagues, but very close friends. “I knew some of the people beforehand, and I knew how talented they were, so I was really excited to collaborate with them,” said ensemble member Noel Gomez. ““When you walk into it you might not know anyone, but by the time it’s over you have a whole second family.”
Williams agreed with this sentiment, explaining that the cast would often spend time together after rehearsals, whether going out to lunch as a group or simply enjoying one another’s company. She also said that being around them has had a positive effect on her acting skills. “With anyone you work with, just watching them and incorporating that into who you want to become is a learning experience.”
Beyond the weekend of performances, this cast has done a lot more than just please crowds. Bradshaw wrote, “When I mentioned that just the costumes alone would far exceed any show we’ve ever done, the students in the Drama Club announced, ‘We can raise the money!’” From selling snacks in character at the shows, to bake sales and even a character breakfast, the cast went beyond the call of duty to ensure their audiences get the most out of the show.
All of the cast members spoken to agree that impacting their audience members is one of the highlights of being a part of the show. Like watching a good movie or curling with a book, drama has the ability to take audiences out of the present moment and transport them somewhere else, if only temporarily.
Samantha Williams said that coming into the lobby following the shows allowed her to interact with audience members, many of whom were in tears. She said that causing those sorts of reactions is both surprising and humbling for the cast. “To know that you really touch people—to know that you caused them to be so moved—that’s the best part.”