Hinsdale Central High School’s production of “Beauty and the Beast” is a testament to the talent of the students.
“I had read it several years ago and while I liked it, I didn’t think we could pull it off well,” said English teacher Christine Hicks, who is director of the school’s drama club. “This year, we had the actors, the voices, the orchestra, the set and lighting capability, so it was a perfect fit.”
The talent apparent at the auditions was such that the lead female roles were double cast.
“Beauty and the Beast gives all cast members large amounts of stage time,” said Jennifer Burkemper, the vocal director for the show.
The music also requires the students to sing a variety of styles and moods.
“I like to see the characters evolve as they learn the music,” Burkempter said.
As “Beauty and the Beast” was both a popular Disney movie and a Broadway hit, “Many audience members will know the songs, but it’s different to experience it live and watch sons and daughters, family, or friends performing up on stage,” Burkemper said.
“There are also a number of songs in the Broadway version we’re doing that aren’t in the Disney movie, and they are really beautiful songs that the audience will walk out humming,” Burkemper said.
The musical will be the last Hicks will direct at Hinsdale Central. She is retiring after nearly 38 years of teaching and dozens of productions with the drama club. Knowing that somewhat affected Hicks’ choice.
“It’s a great feeling to see the auditorium filled with students, community members, children, all brought together to engage in a live theater experience,” Hick said. “I knew that ‘Beauty and the Beast’ would bring in a lot of people, so it felt like a celebration.”
But during a rehearsal last week, Hicks was all business.
“You really need to learn to be more sensitive to the set,” Hicks told the actors on stage. “Do not have equal space between you. You look like you are standing in line.”
To senior Jack Cherry, who is playing Gaston, Hicks said “It needs to be furious and you can do that with body language.”
Gabrielle Roberts, a senior from Hinsdale, said Hicks wants the cast to figure out their own movements and position on stage.
“We have to think about where we can be best seen by the audience,” Roberts said.
The production includes some impressive technical feats, such as characters being airborne, which enhances the show on multiple levels.
“Any good high school theater program is not only training future theater majors, but also training audience members,” Hicks said. “When kids see what goes into a production at this level, they are more likely to appreciate the theater they see as adults.”
For example, she said, they experience what it takes to choreograph stage combat: “How many times the actors need to rehearse, how the set has to accommodate the moves safely.”
“Besides, there’s something really wonderful about being in a production which ‘pulls out all the stops,’ to be able to say, ‘Yeah, I did that!’ It’s a great high school memory.”
Following Saturday’s 1 p.m. matinee will be a royal reception during which audience members will be allowed to tour the stage, have their photos taken with the actors in costume and enjoy refreshments in the school cafeteria. Each child will receive a special program, crayons, a “Beauty and the Beast” themed tattoo and a glow bracelet.