Cast and crew anticipate show’s première.
With only a week remaining until Garnet & Gold Musical Theatre Society premières their rendition of Beauty and the Beast, the highly- anticipated production is sure to make a powerful impact when it finally hits the stage Jan. 23. Following such productions as The Sound of Music and Willy Wonka, this theatrical take on a Disney classic is sure to distinguish itself among Garnet & Gold’s impressive history of excellent musicals.
Established in 1932, Garnet & Gold has committed itself to community-building and large-scale productions to be created and enjoyed by a diversity of individuals. Justin Thomas, a sixth-year Mount Allison student and Sackville native, has worked with G&G since high school and is currently the set manager for Beauty and the Beast.
“G&G tries to emphasize the community aspect,” said Thomas, accentuating the importance of a “family feeling” that is essential to a productive and cooperative experience. “That sort of illustrates what theatre is: it’s a very collaborative art form where everyone has a mutual purpose.”
Meghan McLean, who stars in the lead role as Belle, believes that everyone involved in the production has a unique role that has brought the play to life. “Everyone has different talents … you learn to play up everybody’s strengths and appreciate them for what they bring to the table.”
This sentiment is also shared by newcomers to the G&G stage, who note that the process provides an opportunity for first- and second-year students to learn from their more experienced peers. “It’s like levelling up,” Kelsey Otto said, who notes that her role as dance captain has allowed her to explore new avenues of choreography and stage direction.
Although the play itself adheres fairly closely to the Disney interpretation, McLean identified that a challenging aspect of the production has been finding herself in her character, Belle. “It’s easy to fall into the Disney cliché and just read your lines like a princess” she joked, noting that the character is one she has wanted to play since childhood. While she admits to being influenced by portrayals of Belle in both the Disney film and other theatre productions, McLean explained that an actor or actress must insert a part of themselves into the character in order for it to be truly successful and believable. “You can tell somebody how they should play a certain part, but until they figure it out for themselves it’s not going to come across as authentic.”
McLean also praised the production’s artistic drector Karen Valanne for dedicating an impressive amount of time to exploring the complexity of the characters and helping each performer to make it their own. “I’ve never been in a show where we’ve put so much thought into the lines and what’s written down on the page. We’ve gone through and really investigated what everything means.”
In addition to being an enjoyable and educational environment behind the scenes, many cast and crew members are confident that the production has much in store for the audience. Some, like Kelsey Otto, are particularly fond of the handiwork of Kendrick Haunt, the production’s costume designer. “The costumes are quite brilliant,” Otto said.
Others have cited the large-scale effects and dynamic set design as a highlight of the production. Because this is his last year at Mt. A, Justin Thomas has spent an immense amount of time conceptualizing and constructing an immaculate set that mixes the historical with the fantastical. “This is going to be one of [G&G’s] most technical shows,” he said.
McLean claimed that the combination of talents is what really solidifies the fullness of the production. “I feel like there’s something for everybody,” she said. “I hope that it’s going to be as much of a magical experience for the audience as it will be for me.”
Beauty and the Beast will be performed in Convocation Hall Jan. 23 to 25 at 8 pm, with an additional matinee on Saturday at 2 pm. Student tickets can be purchased in advance for $10 at Joey’s, Tidewater Books, and the MASU Office, or $12 at the door.