Sequoia drama brings “Beauty and the Beast” alive

Vivian Krevor and Christine Chang

Sequoia’s “Beauty and the Beast” is more than just a childish Disney fairytale. The drama program sets serious intentions with a time-consuming production process that begins in the summer. The dedication in choreography, costumes, technology, sets, music, and singing is apparent in the stellar quality of the show. 

For those deprived of this Disney decadence in their childhood, “Beauty and the Beast” centers around the smart and independent young woman, Belle, who is imprisoned by the angry Beast. The Beast was once a human prince, cursed because of his arrogance. The curse also rendered his castle’s inhabitants as dancing household items and can only be reversed if the Beast learns to love. *Spoiler alert* Belle and the Beast break the curse through true love, despite Gaston’s attempts to kill the Beast.

“I start the process [in the summer] with doing script analysis and break down…it allows me to think about the themes and the character development over the course of the show,” Drama Director Talia Cain said. 

Sequoia has not done a Disney show since “Cinderella” in 2011, and the decision to do so this year was aimed to bring more people to the drama program. Because there are so many versions of the songs, movie, and musical, a lot of thought goes into choosing the version that would be best for a high school cast and audience.

“It takes a lot of contemplation to think about what will be best suited for us to do, because there’s a lot of things riding on whether we pick the right show at the right time with the right people,” music director Jefferson said regarding the decision. However, “It’s nice when you can do a musical that has a lot of name recognition, where people can come up like, I know that musical. I want to go and see it.” 

The show was double casted this year, meaning main roles had two actors each, performing on different days. The Rose cast and the Mirror cast, along with other cast members, added up to 40 students casted, and the magnitude of how large that is may not register to someone unfamiliar with theater. This may be more perceivable when imagining the overwhelming responsibilities of coordinating costumes for 40 people – many of which need multiple – and having specific positions for everyone at all times. 

“Vin Fox made all of Belle’s costumes from scratch. I have students that are leading a huge undertaking with lighting design, rigging, lighting equipment, building sets, coordinating, and scenic changes,” Cain said. 

However, it’s worth it for the talented performers who make the show come alive. 

“I absolutely love doing ‘Beauty and the Beast.’ The first time I was a bit scared because I didn’t know what to expect. But then everybody was putting it together,” junior Omar Lopez said, casted as the young prince along with a few other roles.

Most actors in the play love what they do, despite the long and grueling hours spent rehearsing after school. “It’s something I feel passionate about and it’s something that I feel that I’m good at and that I have a lot of experience with,” sophomore Ethan Politzer said, casted as the candlestick Lumiere. He has been in theater since elementary school and enjoys playing Lumiere. “He’s a very dramatic person, which I relate to.”

Theater is a huge part of some of these students’ lives. 

“I get sad when I’m not doing a show because literally my only personality is whatever show I’m doing,” sophomore Natalie Ewing said, casted as Gaston’s sidekick Lefou.

And it’s not just the performers on stage. Hundreds of parent volunteers and students help the show come together. For one, the costumes are created and designed by students and volunteers, such as Vin Fox. 

Many students take on leadership roles, such as head of choreography junior Kate Goldman. One of the creative liberties that she wove into the musical was the decision to make the wolves perform ballet. 

“I watch different versions of the show to get an idea of the vibe of the show…I listen to the soundtrack over and over again to really get it in my head and then I’ll start improvising, so just seeing what my body wants to do,” Goldman said, describing her process for choreographing.

Additionally, students play the musical accompaniment live for each show, performing Broadway caliber music as high school students. The students in the pit orchestra practice Saturday mornings from nine to 12, devoting hours each week to the musical, as well as practicing with the cast during tech week. 

In addition, students also tech the show, working lighting, sound, sets, and more, adding to the amount of students the audience doesn’t often acknowledge.

“I came in with zero prior knowledge and now I’m really good at constructing [sets],” junior Audra Kinser said, who is on the tech crew. Along with building sets, “there’s lights, sound booth, and people on stage. There’s costume designing. There’s a space for basically every skill set on tech.” 

Unfortunately, tech crew can be underappreciated by both the audience and the cast. 

“It’s true that if you’re in the cast, and you’re sitting around waiting for rehearsal to start, you’re like, ‘what is taking them so long?’ If you’re on tech, you’ve got the headset on and you can hear what’s going on. You can hear we’re missing something or we’ve got people in the ceiling. And there’s problems in sound and the mic is missing, you need more tape, you need a screw,” Kinser said. “We have to fix all these problems. And we’re going as fast as we can. It’s understandable that if you can’t hear this stuff going on, you don’t understand what is taking so long.” 

It can be difficult to coordinate the microphones when many people come onstage at once, such as with the Mob Song when the villagers come to kill the Beast. This song is difficult for tech crew but has also got the cast thinking.

“We reflected on how sometimes we get into mob mentality, especially in high school, where you’re trying to fit in and you’re constantly aware of all the different social cliques around you,” Goldman said. 

In the play, Gaston is the strongest, most handsome man in town, leading everyone to follow his every command no matter how ludicrous. Gaston is stereotypically shallow and unintelligent, and yet the villagers crowd around to hear his every word. *Spoiler alert* It is this mob mentality that leads the village to the enchanted castle in an attempt to kill the Beast. Belle, however, doesn’t swoon over Gaston’s looks, instead falling in love with the Beast. 

Goldman also commented that she is assigned eighth grade shadows to give them a taste of a typical high school day. She enjoys bringing her shadows to drama, as afterwards  they’ve always expressed an interest in the drama community at Sequoia.

For those of you considering whether theater is right for you, there’s no harm in giving it a try. 

“When I entered my first year, auditions were really scary. But once I got into the community, it became this huge family that was there for me every single day and second, and I just never left the theater community ever since,” Lopez said.