Saline High School Drama Club has Successful Opening Night for Beauty and the Beast

Rebecca Groeb, theatre manager of the Ellen A. Ewing Performing Arts Center at Saline High School said before Friday night’s opener of the Disney Classic “Beauty and the Beast,” “I think they are ready for an audience,” referring to the cast of the SHS Drama Club’s annual spring musical.

What an understatement.

From the overture to the finale and curtain call, the drama club put on a performance for the ages. Katie Booher, cast in the lead role of Belle (the Beauty) sang and danced her way to a standing ovation. She possessed the perfect blend of sweetness and defiance.

Booher has a beautiful soprano voice that brought to life the Disney heroine. In Act I, she puts her heart and soul into the song “Home.” Having traded places to set her father free, Belle sings though she may be trapped in a strange new place, her heart will forever be home, free and far away from here. Booher is so believable in the role of Belle and her voice is the perfect complement to her character. Booher’s character is immediately likable and she wins the audience over, with everyone hoping she has the happy ending that she yearns for.

Not to be outdone, Isiah Gifford, the Beast, uses his baritone voice to thrill the audience with his rendition of “If I Can’t Love Her”, a pretty ballad where he despairs that if he can’t find a way to love Belle, then who could he love, or who could love him. And the further from love the Beast feels, the more beast like he becomes. And as the Beast is introduced to the audience, he is just nasty. Gifford truly brought the beast out and was more than a little creepy.

Beauty and the Beast is a show that was written for professional singers, actors, dancers and orchestra players. And there is no “high school” version of the show. Despite that, the actors, dancers and especially the orchestra performed the music flawlessly. The orchestra was comprised mostly of high school students, with only three adults. There was the occasional tension of the volume of the orchestra drowning out the voices of the singers but that was a very, very minor concern with this production.

Beauty and the Beast offers kids parts with some substance rather than just the two lead characters with everyone else in the ensemble. Isaac Roughton, was perfectly overbearing in his performance of Gaston. His pursuit of Belle, and her constant rejection of his overtures, provided both tension and comic relief.

Some of the other characters that added to the fun included Ben Holtz as Lefou, Holly Peavler as Maurice, Cooper Bush as Lumiere, Lana Wagner as Mrs. Potts and Drew Harrigan as Cogsworth. Each of these roles added humor and fun to the show. And their interactions with the main characters helped to carry the storyline along. Each actor played their parts with fun and their costumes were perfect.

One of the big hits of the performance came near the end of Act I with the full cast song and dance number of “Be Our Guest.” In the Disney tradition of lively song and dance numbers, the cast did an outstanding job with Be Our Guest. Lisa Holland, choreographer for the production, took a page straight out of the Radio City Rockettes. On several occasions, the dancers did the all-too-familiar leg kicks of the Rockettes, all together and in perfect unison.

Holland was especially effective in her ability to take a group of non-dancers and make them all look good in the dance steps that they have been asked to perform. The kids were sensational in their dance routine in Be Our Guest. And the audience responded with a raucous applause when the number concluded. That number had every member of the audience clapping their hands, tapping their feet, and putting a smile on their face. And the whistles during the applause is always a give-away as to how delighted the number was received by the audience.

Act II has Belle singing another beautiful ballad in “A Change In Me,” where she sings about how her feelings for the beast have changed. And this change leads to the transformation of the beast back into a human and allows the beauty and the beast to finally fall in love.

Following the show, artistic director/producer Kristen Glatz, had high praise for her cast. “I thought the production went just superbly tonight. The cast did an amazing job.”

“And how about that orchestra? This music is very hard to play and we had an orchestra of mostly high school students and they were superb,” Glatz said.

Beauty and the Beast is technically a very complicated production. Former SHS Drama Club member Alyssa Dawson was the stage manager who directed traffic for all the technical cues and from the audience perspective, there were no mistakes.

In Saline, athletic teams are celebrated. Their accomplishments are recorded, trophies awarded and the end of each season always encourages talk of the next season.

Beauty and the Beast should be celebrated by the entire school district. At the conclusion of this production, the sets will be stored away, the make-up and costumes put away, and the cast and orchestra members will return to their school life. But there are no trophies, no trophy showcases, no real celebration of the accomplishments of the school of these talented kids. The kids in the orchestra are flawlessly playing music written for professionals. Think about that. That reflects real talent.

And there always seems to be more kids who attend home football games than the spring musical by very talented kids. There are two more opportunities to watch a performance of Beauty and the Beast. Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday afternoon at 2 p.m.

And in the words of my two grandsons who attended the performance Friday night, “it was awesome.” I agree. It was a delightful evening of entertainment.

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