GOOD Morning Wilton senior interns Margaret Collias and Emily Ettie got a chance to go behind the scenes during dress rehearsals for Beauty and the Beast at Wilton High School. 

Tonight, May 19, is the opening night for Wilton High School‘s much-anticipated production of Beauty and the Beast, an adaption of the beloved Disney animated movie set for the stage. Even as a high school production, the dance numbers are impressively grandiose and sparkling with the fun and whimsy typical of enchanted castles; the costumes are superb and intricate, with even the ensemble characters fully decked out in wigs and sequins; the actors display a masterful grasp of their characters, while simultaneously bringing a child-like, joyful energy to a mostly light-hearted play.

The tormented and complex ‘Beast’ is brought vividly to life by senior Griffin King, while the charming sophomore, Rachel Strazza, plays the role of ‘Belle,’ a book-worm-turned-princess, who’s seeking so much more than her provincial life. Junior Michael Ferrigno, new to the WHS theater scene, brings a hilarious physicality to the part of ‘La Fou,’ played alongside Ben Senneff, the bombastic ‘Gaston,’ while theater veterans, seniors Harry Wendorff and Elliot Conners, display their time-tested chemistry in the parts of ‘Lumierre’ and ‘Cogswarth.’ Notable performances can also be seen from Jackie Yee, a warm ‘Mrs. Potts’ and incredible talent, as well as Trevor Brown and Julia Stewart, who play crazy-old-‘Maurice’ and ‘Madame de la Grande Bouche,’ respectively.

Beast & Belle cropped

Yet, what really brings this “tale as old as time” to life is not just the strong individual performances, but the scale and complexity of the production itself, with its huge dance numbers and complicated set changes.

I had the pleasure of sitting through one of the first run-through rehearsals, with the opportunity to go behind the scenes and meet some of the students who have spent many long hours to bring one of WHS’s most ambitious plays to fruition. Stage director Amanda Eason told me how she and her team faced the unique challenges involved with multiple sets and props and all the moving parts of an unusually complicated production.

“I like contributing in a positive way, so that [the stars] don’t have to worry about some of the more technical aspects,” she says.

beast & bele
beast & belle c.
beast & belle 6

Backstage crew member, junior Alex Hollander echoes that sentiment. “It’s a greater cast, a bigger tech team, just an all around bigger production compared to other plays I’ve done.”

Griffin King said one of the most fascinating aspects of the play was created by the behind-the-scenes crew members who make a point of staying out of the spotlight.

“One of the most magical parts of the play is the details we’ve payed attention to,” he says. “You can see how the characters, the objects, evolve over time:  the rose looses its petals, the characters get more and more objects put onto their costumes as the play progresses, showing how they become more like concrete things, rather than people.”

Tristan Clark, who plays a hat seller in the town scene, is really impressed with the realistic looking flames used in Lumierre’s costume:  “They’re lights that [the actor] can control, which is pretty cool,” he says.

What’s most notable about the production is its fun, energetic tone, something inspired from the Disney movie upon which the play was based. Ben Senneff, in particular, notes that the role of Gaston is one of the most enjoyable characters he has ever brought to life. “He is the ego-maniac, full of himself guy, who only thinks about himself, and even though that is an awful thing to be in real life, becoming that role on stage was the most fun I’ve ever had,” Ben says, adding, “I definitely looked to the movie for my inspiration, when it comes to Gaston’s mannerisms and personality.”

beast & belle 3

Director Meredith Walker also reckons that the roots of the play in the well-known movie will be something audiences particularly respond to.

“Being familiar with the songs and the story really brings this exciting, magical element to it, when you seen it brought to life, live on the stage,” she says.

additional reporting by Emily Ettie.