Beyond Disney: Beauty and the Beast
A classic, reinterpreted, is performed this weekend
In the slide show above, take a sneak peak at Stage Troupe’s production of Beauty and the Beast with Belle, played by Sarah Jill Bashein (CAS’11), and Gaston, played by Alec Nicholson (CAS’12).
Mom and Dad, this isn’t your typical Disney.
For Parents Weekend, the student performing arts group Stage Troupe will present a slightly twisted version of Disney’s Academy Award–winning Beauty and the Beast. This time around, Belle, Gaston, and the Beast of kindergarten years have gone off to college.
“With a Disney piece, there’s a certain amount of, for lack of a better term, Disney-ness that the show needs to have,” says codirector Joseph Colombo (SED’11). Coloring outside the lines, the Stage Troupe team has interpreted the story with a darker slant. “It’s been a careful balance, but one I think we’ve achieved.”
Stage Troupe performs eight main-stage shows each year, including one during Parents Weekend; it is the University’s oldest and largest extracurricular performing arts group for undergraduates not majoring in theater.
Based on the screenplay by Linda Woolverton, Beauty and the Beast is the story of Belle, a bookish girl from a provincial town in France, and her unlikely Prince Charming. When her father, Maurice, is imprisoned by a beast in an enchanted castle, Belle gains his freedom by sacrificing her own. Belle and the Beast’s growing love breaks a spell cast over him, and presto, Beast becomes handsome prince.
Choosing Beauty and the Beast as the Parents Weekend production fit Stage Troupe’s goals. “You want it to be something that has wide appeal and you want it to be something that is about family,” says Colombo, who is making his directorial debut. Beauty and the Beast is a show of his generation, he says, and “screamed bringing family together.”
More than 30 students comprise the musical’s cast and crew. They’ve all put in long days since work began the second week of the semester. Three-hour rehearsals take a chunk of each weekday and have expanded to eight hours on weekends.
Performers share a “wonderful chemistry” on a top-notch set, according to Alex Shuck (COM’11), who plays LeFou. “The combination of hard work from the technical side and the people on stage really makes it great,” he says.
Walking into the auditorium, theater-goers are surrounded by scenes of a bustling French town. Much of the action happens in the aisles, representing the woods between the village and the Beast’s castle.
A darker view of the well-known story drives home a point. “We really pushed to have the realization that this is actually a sad situation,” Shuck says.
Colombo wants the audience to sense the mental divide between a town unwilling to accept the idea of educating women and a castle where magic and endless possibilities reside.
“They’ll be reminded of a classic story,” says Shuck. “Everyone has experienced it at some point. And they get to see it come to life in real flesh and blood.”
Directed by Colombo and Jan P. Kaim (COM’11), Beauty and the Beast plays at the Tsai Performance Center, 685 Commonwealth Ave., Friday, October 16, and Saturday, October 17, at 8 p.m., and Sunday, October 18, at 1 p.m. Tickets are available at the George Sherman Union, 775 Commonwealth Ave., and are $8 for Friday’s performance and $20 for Saturday’s and Sunday’s performances.
Brittany Rehmer (COM’11) contributed to this story.