The life lessons of ‘Beauty and the Beast’ | Arts & Events

More than 30 years ago, Disney’s animated “Beauty and the Beast” captured the world’s imagination and hearts. The story has stood the test of time—and it comes to the Community School this week.

The middle-school production of “Beauty and the Beast, Jr.” runs April 20-22 at 5 pm in the Sun Valley Community School Theater.

“Beauty and the Beast” tells the story of a “Beast” who captures a young woman, Belle, in an attempt to gain her love so he can shed his monstrous form. It’s filled with lovable characters and singalong songs.

Music Theater International creates “Junior” versions of musical favorites, paring down shows to 60-75 minute chunks more attainable for kids. Additionally, they add roles like narrators and other supporting ensemble members so more students can be featured.

Director Megan Mahoney is impressed with how far the students have come in such a short time.

“Usually, in a rehearsal process, there will be a lot of scripts onstage as the process gets started—not with this cast,” Mahoney said. “They came to every rehearsal with their lines and songs already memorized and ready to learn their staging and choreography.”

This is the first time in two years this age group of Community School thespians has rehearsed without masks and will perform to a full audience.

“The sheer brilliance of these kids coming together, in spite of the challenges of the past couple years, is inspirational,” Mahoney said.

To bring this show to life, she collaborated with Music Director Kevin Wade and Elle Lucas, who leads the technical team. The tight knit group leads by example.

“We pride ourselves on demonstrating to the kids a healthy working team where we pick up slack when necessary, help each other out, treat each other with kindness, value and appreciate each other’s ideas and build up our peers,” Mahoney said. “If we’re working on building good humans, it’s important we model that behavior.”

Sets for “Beauty and the Beast, Jr.” include a French provincial town and an enchanted castle. Mahoney had to make dozens of costumes from scratch. Lucas and her team have had to source or construct over 150 different props.

One day, the actress playing Belle didn’t have her magic mirror. While she ran backstage to grab it, the instructors talked to the remaining actors onstage about how they would handle a like this during the show and encouraged them to improvise.

“This is live theater, after all—things will go wrong, and a huge lesson for these actors is how to handle it,” Mahoney said. “It was a fun exercise and the students learned how sometimes you have to get creative to handle onstage mishaps.”

Theater can teach young people problem solving, public speaking, collaboration and self advocacy, Mahoney said. There are hard lessons in theater; Sometimes, you don’t get the role you want, or your voice cracks onstage.

“Every single moment onstage and off is preparing these kids to be successful, competent, and resourceful,” Mahoney said. “When we boil it down, we’re teaching our students to be good humans, and we have the privilege to do so through music, text and dance.”

With the cast and crew of students, they discussed the aspects of the story which may not have aged particularly well.

“Mostly that taking a girl prisoner with the hope of her falling in love with you isn’t an ideal relationship tactic,” Mahoney said.

Still, she believes there is an ultimately positive message in “Beauty and the Beast.”

“The characters who are perceived as ‘different’ come out on top at the end,” Mahoney said. “These plot points and characters remind an audience that it is okay, and often better, to march to the beat of your own drum.”

Tickets cost $7 for students and $10 for adults. For more information, visit communityschool.org. 

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