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Beauty and the Beast Performed to a Glowing Reception

posted Apr 21, 2011, 8:20 PM by Unknown user   [ updated Apr 24, 2011, 11:34 AM ]
By the Knight Life Staff
Anticipation for the biggest theatre production in St. Francis history was felt on Wednesday April 6th when the turnout for the show’s preview night rivaled those of the opening nights of the last few productions. Ticket requests popped up on message boards and Facebook walls like movie theatre kettle corn and brown folding chairs were even set up on the fringes of the Degheri Performing Arts Center to accommodate the lucky few who were able to obtain tickets despite every seat filling up before winter came to a halt.

Those who were fortunate enough to attend one of the eight performances paid witness to what is now being known as a triumph of the already acclaimed St. Francis performing arts department. Beauty and the Beast was a two-hour spectacle that dispelled the idea that Disney productions make unimpressive stage work. A standing ovation at the conclusion of a nine minute decadent trip of childhood nostalgia pointed to the quality of the production, celebrated at least ninety minutes before the final bows were taken.

An email sent to me by a fan read the following: “You guys could take the show as is to the Ahmanson Theatre and receive glowing reviews”. Crossing guard and Disney aficionado Kim Rodriguez classified the performance as “the best thing I’ve ever seen here.” Many faculty members and athletic coaches were spotted mouthing the words to the songs simultaneously with the actors while physics and math teacher Mr. McGuffie was caught saying “bloody brilliant” during the final applause.

Senior Michelle Edu capped off arguably the most stupendous career in St. Francis theatre history as a Disney princess and the hero of many children adorned in Belle costumes at the Sunday matinee. Junior Emma Camp continued her impressive succession of lead female roles as the voice of reason and bearer of tea, Mrs. Potts. In her second major role, sophomore Brooke Valier served as Babbette, the feather duster and frustrating love interest of the hopeless romantic Lumiere. Continuing the legacy of another great family of St. Francis theatre, senior Gianna Halpin brought her operatic voice and impeccable fashion sense to the dresser as Madame de la Grande Bouche.

Senior Steve Shushnar and junior Nick Barth served as the hapless duo of Lumiere the candelabra and Cogsworth the clock, respectively. Sophomores Thomas Duffy and John Parker received the most applause during the show as the adorable Chip and Belle’s Prince. Senior Matt Ramirez ended a stint at St. Francis as Belle’s father and senior William Anastassiou impressed in his first major role as the awkward assistant Le Fou despite a hyperextended elbow suffered during Friday’s performance.

Seniors Andrew Pilmer and Nick Bruno switched the position of protagonist to finish a historic year for the presidents of the theatre department. Andrew showed off his muscles to spare as the brawny and brainless Gaston while Nick glowed in his versatility as the tortured and heartsick Beast. As Francesco and Elias, they shined in the West Coast premiere of the fall production Troubadour, and as leading men in Beauty and the Beast, they guided what is perhaps the most impressive display the Degheri Performing Arts Center has ever hosted.

Fresh off its conclusion, Beauty and the Beast is already being mentioned in the same breath as Miss Saigon, Les Miserables, and Romeo and Juliet, among the best stage productions ever performed at St. Francis. It took a big budget, a lot of patience, and an incredible amount of gold fabric, but by the time next year’s fall production is announced, the returning theatre members are going to have much to live up to. It was, as assistant director David Yeomans stated, “the best play in St. Francis history”.