By Jill Keppeler
The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News — KENMORE — Sometimes it’s good to be The Beast.
He may start out as a bit unpleasant — and there’s a lot of pressure in portraying a character who’s the very image on the show’s poster — but there’s a sort of catharsis in being, well, a beast.
“It’s just so much fun to play,” said Brian Page, the senior who plays the character in Kenmore West High School’s rendition of the musical. “If I’ve had a bad day, I can just let go and yell in rehearsal.”
Ken West will present “Disney’s Beauty and the Beast” from Thursday through Saturday at the school. The musical, which features the talents of more than 70 students in the cast, orchestra and backstage, is directed and produced by teacher Philip Jarosz.
This is Jarosz’s seventh musical as director, following “Funny Girl” in 2012, “Into the Woods” in 2011 and “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” in 2010.
“I try to mix up which shows we do each year,” he said. “We haven’t really done a family show in a long time, not since ‘Wizard of Oz,’ which was in 2006. I thought it was time to do another family show. We try to get the kids a good mix of musicals, a good educational experience in their four years here.”
The show features one of the biggest sets constructed at the school, including a movable tower on wheels for the The Beast’s castle, and a chandelier so big it’s created some transportation issues.
Jarosz called the Disney production a “classic musical” even though it was written in the 1990s ... and noted that it’s about far “more than just a cartoon princess who’s after her prince.”
“You can take it for the cartoon that it is, or you can take it for the realness behind the characters,” he said. “The Beast grows up, like a kid grows up ... and Belle changes as a character, like everyone who wants more than what they have, to find a bigger world.”
Portraying characters that are so iconic, however, has its challenges for the actors.
“It’s a lot of pressure,” Page said. “Everyone grows up with these Disney stories ... so I feel like I’m trying to live up to some great expectations. There’s not much I can do but try my best.”
Senior Jennie Morris, who plays Belle in the production, said that she’s getting to step into “every little girl’s dream” in taking on the role. Most of the modern Disney princesses have an independent streak, she said, but Belle seems to be a favorite.
“Belle’s is just a little more emphasized, especially in this script. The things she does, the things she says ... she kind of has an attitude, but not in a snotty way, in a confident way,” Morris said. “I think that confidence is what appeals to a lot of little girls ... and big girls, too.”
Morris lauded the rest of the cast, crew and orchestra for all the work that’s gone into the production.
“Everyone’s had such a good attitude about it and put in a lot of effort,” she said. “It’s a very good environment to work in.”
Other cast members are Zach Thomas as Gaston, Ronnie Stewart as LeFou, Nick Morelli as Maurice, Eric Walborn as Cogsworth, John Boughton as Lumiére, Lauren Gantz as Babette, Elizabeth Johnson as Babette and Maximillian Riso as Chip.
The show also features choreography by Cathleen Riso, vocal direction by Paul LaDuca, music direction by Kenneth Belote, set construction by Russell LaManna and lighting design by Amelia Scinta.
“Disney’s Beauty and the Beast” runs at 7:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday and 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday. For more information or tickets, call the school at 874-8401.IF YOU GO • WHAT: "Disney's Beauty and The Beast" • WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday and 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday • WHERE: Kenmore West High School, 33 Highland Parkway, Kenmore • COST: Tickets are $8 for adults and $7 for students, seniors and children • FOR MORE INFORMATION: Call the school at 874-8401