“Beauty lies within,” a message so often lost today, gets reaffirmed in Ponderosa High School’s latest drama production — “Beauty and the Beast”
It’s a “dream role” for 17-year-old Connor Carson, who plays the book-loving, independent Belle. “I’ve been singing the songs since before I can remember,” said the high school senior, who’s appeared in several Ponderosa productions including last year’s hit “Seussical, the Musical.”
Connor portrays Belle as both sweet and strong, a winning combination that tames The Beast (Kyle Sanderson, 15). Thanks to Belle, The Beast transforms from a selfish, loathing creature into kind and caring man. “Inside there’s good in him,” said Kyle, a sophomore) as he adjusted his hairy mitts after rehearsal. Wearing a bushy wig with horns, the mitts and a hairy chest piece, Kyle said his favorite part of the production is when he gets to take off The Beast costume. “It’s pretty sweaty in here.”
But the audience won’t notice that. They’ll be too focused on the true beauty of this production, the music originally written by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice and produced by Alan Menken. Classics from the Oscar-nominated Disney animated feature include “Belle,” “Be Our Guest” and, of course, “Beauty and the Beast.” Those who’ve never seen the stage production will also be pleasantly surprised by new music — “If I Can’t Love Her,” “No Matter What” and more.
Director Jennifer Schmelzer, who oversees a cast of 40, said they chose “Beauty and the Beast” because they wanted to stage a musical in the same spirit of “Seussical.”
The audience and the cast know the story well but, she admitted, that didn’t make things any easier. “Where aren’t the challenges?” she said. “It’s a huge costume (challenge); it’s a huge set; it’s a huge cast.” As she spoke cast members sang lines from “Belle” and even though she shushed them, Schmelzer said another draw of “Beauty and the Beast” is, “You can hear (the music) over and over and not get sick of it.
“The kids are having the time of their lives doing it,” she added.
That goes without saying for Connor, who said she really hopes the audience enjoys the show and connects with the actors on stage. “Beauty and the Beast” opens at Ponderosa High School on April 7.
Belle (Connor Carson); The Beast (Kyle Sanderson); Gaston (Matt Howlett); LeFou (Wesley Kayne); Maurice (Gabe Dubin); Lumiere (Mason Thomas); Cogsworth (Wade Anderson); Mrs. Potts (Rikki Pratt); Chip (Madeline Wagner); Babette (Kylie Brakebill); Madame De Le Grande Bouche (Aubrey Ann Lawrence); M. D’Arque (Asher Dubin); silly girls (Kelsea Sutton, Hannah Mangelson and Kristina Ruiz); The Beast stunt double (Zach Ober).
The villagers are played by: Sabrina Sease, Stephanie Williams, Serena Mora, Alyssa Padahay, Sarah Howlett, Maddie Crook, Matt Rawlings, Zach Ober, John Nunes, Sean McVey, Julia Spears, Miriam Dubin, Alexys Bartok and Carl Ober.
The enchanted objects are played by: Breanne Bartok, Stacy Olson, Nick Uhlmeyer, Austin Ito, Emily Sathis, Jacob Hansen, Sarah Mayo, Kayleen Plummer, Jenna Phillips, Royce Cotcher, Anthony Thoma, Hannah Christiansen, Alexys Bartok and Carl Ober.
Behind the scenes
Costume design: Janet Matranga, LuAnn LePere and Connie Loken.
Set design: Jennifer Schmelzer, parents and cast members.
“Beauty and the Beast” details
Where: Ponderosa High School, 3661 Ponderosa Road in Shingle Springs
When: 7:30 p.m. on April 7, 8, 9, 14, 15 & 16; 2:30 p.m. on April 9 & 16. After the April 9 matinee Belle will pose for photographs with little ones in the audience.
Tickets: $15 general; $10 students. Reserve by calling (530) 672-8338.