Cast and crew receive accolades for ambitious project.
By Tyler BIDDLE,
and Mary O’KEEFE
Last weekend’s opening of the Crescenta Valley High School production of “Beauty and the Beast” was welcomed with audiences full of parents, students and members of the community. The show, directed by Zoë Bright, features the full repertoire of the original Broadway musical and is a big production – really big.
Dozens of students were involved in addition to the live orchestra under the direction of Mat Schick.
The production tells the classic story of a cursed prince who now lives as a hideous beast and the young woman whom he imprisons in his castle. The unorthodox love story that plays out between the Beast and his prisoner, Belle, is supported by a host of minor characters including the Beast’s talking furniture and the villainous Gaston who also vies for Belle’s affections.
The cast provides a strong ensemble of young actors. Nick Naoumovitch as Gaston mixes equal parts comedy and charismatic evil to make a memorable villain. Courtney Sohn as Belle is a strong anchor for the entire production and sings with skill and feeling. Evan Boukidis as the Beast gives a dramatic and transformative performance, skulking about the stage delivering his lines seemingly through gritted fangs.
Boukidis’ role is one of the most demanding as he not only deals with a few dance steps but also acts with a mask on for most of the play.
“The mask can be a little restrictive,” he said. But he is a veteran of the CVHS theatre – this is his fourth musical – and so he takes it all in stride.
But not all involved are theatre veterans. Joshua Joo portrays Lefou, the comic foil to the overbearing personality of Gaston. Joo is not from the drama department but choir. He almost didn’t audition.
“I was scared,” he said. But his audition piece was strong enough to get him the role.
Other actors were new to the stage as well. For junior Dylan Sylvester, “Beauty and the Beast” is his first musical.
“The toughest part was learning all the songs,” Sylvester said.
Apparently the tunes were well learned; the biggest number of the production, “Be Our Guest,” had the audience applauding even before it was over.
Production values weren’t lacking either. All of the costumes, from Cogsworth’s living clock outfit to Belle’s ballroom gown, are intricate and colorful. Katie Davis is in charge of costuming.
“Courtney [who portrays Belle] has some really fast changes,” Davis said. She added that the dress zippers can be stubborn, but she has found how to work through all the costume difficulties.
“I had worked on ‘Penelope’ [another CVHS musical] and it was easier,” she said. “For this play, I spend half my time sewing something.”
For the stage crew, the need for quick turnaround was demanding. Set pieces are flown in and out with precision, something Kal Hempel and Daniel Morrow are part of.
“It’s the timing,” explained Hempel. “The timing of the drops has to be perfect.”
Backstage crews have to know every actor’s part. They have to know when an actor is about to enter or exit the stage and where they are standing at every moment. Set pieces from chairs and tables to flying large backdrops in are done quickly; everything must be in its place when the lights come up.
“We have cues but we have to know the script,” Morrow said.
“I think the hardest drop, for me, is during one of the songs when there are about  people on stage,” Hempel said.
Perhaps most challenging is the famous transformation sequence done with a clever array of smoke and pyrotechnics.
“Beauty and the Beast” is one of the most ambitious projects CV High School has taken on. The cast and crew have spent many hours on the production. They got up early to come to school and stayed late working on characters and the set. Though all were exhausted from the energy invested, they were grateful for the direction under Bright.
“She’s awesome,” was the universal comment about the director.
Opening night included a special guest. Gary Trousdale, the director of the 1991 Disney classic and CVHS class of 1978 alumnus, was in attendance. Trousdale was born in La Crescenta-Montrose and after graduating from CV he attended Glendale College and then Cal Arts for three years. He was hired by Disney Studios in 1983 and worked on various projects. Trousdale is perhaps best known for directing “Beauty and the Beast,” which was eventually nominated for a Best Picture Academy Award.
At the end of the performance he was brought up on stage.
“You guys nailed it,” he said to the cast and crew.
After Sunday’s performance, the first of two enchanted rose winners was chosen. During intermission raffle tickets were sold for a chance to win one of the specially crafted roses created to raise funds for the CV arts program courtesy of Rik Middleton, whose daughter Taylor Middleton plays one of the silly girls in the production. Patty Scripter was Sunday’s lucky winner. She graciously returned the rose so it could be raffled again this upcoming weekend.
The show completes its run with two performances, one on Friday and the other on Saturday. Despite the grueling schedule, cast and crew are sad to think that it’s coming to an end when the show wraps and the set pieces are taken down.
“I think that will be the saddest time,” Joo said, “to see the set in the truck.”
“We are a family,” Boukidis added. “This is my last musical and it will be sad to leave everyone.”
This weekend’s performances are at 7 p.m. Tickets are $15 at the door for non-students and $5 for students. The enchanted roses will be raffled at the end of each performance.
Tickets purchased for the show and the raffle partially determine funding for next year’s programs.