Drama Club gave a truly remarkable performance of the musical , during three recent, nearly sold out showings at the school.
Jonathan Chiaramonte, director; Dr. Dana Santomenna, assistant director; Michael Burke, choreographer; producer, Bill Averso ; the orchestra; cast and crew all did an outstanding job of managing to put together this ambitious project in just four weeks, despite several snow days that limited rehearsal time.
Pit director, Michael Carroll and the orchestra flawlessly rendered the brilliant original score by Alan Menken.
The set construction courtesy of Domenic Lux and set design by Jess Clark, Jill Berner and Desiree McKinney was a sight to behold. The set seemed to magically transform, alternating between the bucolic provincial backdrop; the gothic majesty of the Beast's enchanted castle that was decorated in hues of rich reds and lit by torchlight; the bawdy local tavern; and the starkness of the dark, wolf-inhabited woods.
Expert makeup artist, Jess Clark and detail-oriented costume designer, Ronnie Green, aided the talented cast in truly inhabiting their larger than life characters.
The audience was filled with parents and family members, high school students supporting their friends and classmates and children who were invited from the district's elementary and middle schools. All were utterly enthralled from the first note to the last during the performance that ran close to three hours with only a brief intermission.
James Stumper, a senior, was tragic and terrifying as The Beast. He was able to convey the pathos of both sides of the character: The hot-tempered bitterness of the vain, handsome prince trapped inside the body of a monstrous beast, in payback for his shallowness and lack of compassion; while also able to exude an underlying, growing warmth and loving nature.
His powerhouse vocals were breathtaking during the emotive and heartbreaking, "If I Can't Love Her", the most notable of the seven new songs not included in the film of the same name.
Sophomore, Victoria Isernia gave a standout vocal performance as Belle. She was entirely believable as the spirited, intelligent young heroine, "with a dreamy far off look, and her nose stuck in a book", who wanted more out of life than the banality which she saw before her, in her poor provincial town.
Isernia's strong singing and acting chops were front and center during songs such as "Belle" and "Something There."
The Book Seller played by Kenneth Crimmins, a sophomore, was a small, but memorable, part acted with subtle charm.
Villainous and vain alpha-male "meathead," Gaston, was rendered hilariously by Christopher Isolano, a freshman. He was relentless as the brute dead set on marrying Belle for her beauty, not her brains.
His smitten admirers were played fawningly by Silly Girls: Alyssa Tripi, Melissa Weingartner, Elliana Gianacopoulous, Jordana Gaines, Angelis Vaca and Debbie Santiago.
Ryan Cavanaugh, a sophomore, was excellent as Gaston's obsequious and nebbish, sycophantic sidekick.
An important aspect of the story is the servants in the enchanted castle who were subject to the spell as well, and were insidiously transforming into the anthropomorphized objects that most closely resembled their personalities and roles.
"Slowly, but surely, as everyday passes, we will all gradually become things," said Lumiere, the valet of the castle, a dashing and debonair "bright" Frenchman that was turning into a candelabra. The pivotal character was played brilliantly by the charismatic, Erlend Broholm, a senior exchange student from Norway.
Broholm "shined" during one of the highlights of the performance, "Be Our Guest." The ensemble number he shared with Mrs. Potts, portrayed with maternal charm by sophomore, Laura Laureano. She displayed both vocal prowess and the ability to speak in a believable British accent as the caring cook slowing turning into a teapot.
The musical number showcased the entire ensemble cast of singing and dancing plates, utensils and other enchanted objects that were inviting Belle into their wacky and wonderful world of whimsy.
Mrs. Pots' teacup son, Chip was adorably acted by sophomore, Kristi Kahen.
Cogsworth, the "tightly wound" and "ticked off", tense butler turned mantle clock was irreverently played by freshman, Paul Gagliardi. His impeccable comedic "timing" turned cheesy one-liners like, "If it ain't Baroque, don't fix it" into zingers.
Babette, the va-va-voom French maid morphing into a feather duster was acted with saucy splendor by sophomore, Carley Mattheus.
She and Broholm were captivating as they flirted shamelessly while using double entendres making light of their situation such as when Lumiere assured Babette, "You really tickle my fancy", as she was devastated to discover her fingers forming into feathers.
Madame de la Grande Bouche (which loosely translates to Mrs. Big Mouth), a former opera diva turned enchanted wardrobe was acted with sweetness and flair by senior, Alyssa Mullen.
Belle's lovable father, the eccentric inventor, Maurice was given dignity and depth by actor, Taylor Newsom, a freshman.
Last, but not least, a sensationally sinister, Gino Oliva, a freshman, was perfect as D'Arque, the scheming proprietor of the local insane asylum.
During the entr'acte as audience members came up to the director to rave about the performance, Chiaramonte confessed, "I never cried at one of my shows before. I'm so proud of them."