Wow, Just wow……
One of my best friends Jackie, invited me to go see the Ashland High School’s production of Beauty and the Beast, and oh what a show!
Let me just say, I haven’t wanted to, or even entertained the notion of attending a high school production since I was in high school, ahem, “several” years ago. Also…I’m not related to nor do I know any of the students in the production. My friend and I were enchanted with the story and had seen the press photos in the papers, and thought we’d like to support the students and spend our Sunday afternoon watching what we thought would be an entertaining, “cute” show of emerging thespians practice their craft. “Practice” being the operative word.
Well I had my proverbial socks blown off…. One of two things have happened in the last 15 years, either high school productions have gotten quite a bit better than when I went to school, or Ashland has a unique and amazing group of students and staff that take their theater very seriously. (And when I say that I mean they don’t miss a thing!) I have a tendency to believe it’s a combination of both.
When we walked in and chose our seating a half hour before the show, I was first blown away by the size, and stature of the Mountain Street Theater. What a professional and perfect venue. The next thing I was surprised by was the REAL orchestra, practicing in the REAL pit beneath the stage. Holy Cow! The student orchestra was going to play all the music live??!! Granted, it was a student orchestra, not the Boston Philharmonic….but still, two and half hours of music perfectly timed to the actors on stage is no mean accomplishment. My thanks and thunderous applause to the invisible young folks of the Ashland High School orchestra. The Live music absolutely made the show!…well, besides the fabulous, magical sets, the great acting, the imaginative and colorful costumes, superb singing and over all WOW factor….but I digress.
This production was the Disney version of Beauty and the Beast, complete with enchanted cutlery, candlesticks and Alan Menken’s memorable songs. Director Bruce Hostetler should be highly commended for directing and bringing Ashland such a great show. A few of the cast members stood out, and I acknowledge them below, my apologies for those I don’t mention. You were ALL fabulous!
Ari Susu-Mago was an amazing Belle with a clear beautiful voice, amazing presence, and was a graceful actor and dancer. Jeffrey Star was wonderful as the troubled, tortured beast.
Thomas Wood took the gloating, insufferable Gaston to the limit with humor and wit.
Josh Houghton as Lefou (Gaston’s sidekick) get’s my vote for best supporting actor though. He was absolutely hilarious, and had the audience eating out of his hand most of the show. Abigail Dock as Mrs. Potts was perfectly cast as the mothering teapot with a beautiful voice.
and finally “The Silly Girls”…..Gaston’s simpering entourage was perfect in every sense. They epitomized a group of squealing silly high-school girls screaming for their favorite star….oh wait…they were high school girls….and the squealing although ear splitting in volume didn’t seem forced. Hmmmmm.
Ari’s voice gave me goosebumps on my goosebumps. Her clear, simple sweet renditions of the songs were perfectly done, she was always on time, on key and showed grace and presence beyond her years. I can imagine her going on to fame and fortune in her life after high-school. Congratulations Ari on a great performance!
As the story progressed, so did the set. The set was a-may-zing! Complete with a smoke machine for the spooky wolf-infested woods, a pink glittery enchanted castle, complete with hidden library, and matte painting backgrounds as good as any professional production. The costumes also have to be mentioned. These outfits (especially the enchanted household items) were spectacular. I particularly remember Mme. de la Grand Bouche’s drawers..(now don’t go there…she was a dresser for crying out loud..tsk, tsk.) The lighting and effects were great as well. Always perfectly timed, perfectly done and always setting the mood.
There were several great big chorus productions in the show and my favorite (of course) was “Be our Guest” I think it involved the whole cast and was a complete success of choreography, costume and voice. There was even a Radio City Music Hall style dance line. WOW! The whole audience thundered their applause and it was well deserved.
One of the main ways to tell if a theater production can hold the audience…is if you stuff the seats full of patrons between the ages of ..oh…approximately 4-8 years old. Once you have probably over 100 such audience members in the room, andthey can stay fully interested and engaged for two plus hours. (without kicking the seats behind us, without some sort of outbreak, potty break, or snack break) I say, INDEED you have won the hearts of everyone who has seen the show. So, I can say with full assurance that the Ashland High School production of Beauty and the Beast not only had these two (not quite over the hill) gals but the entire room whooping and cheering and on our feet in a standing ovation of a great, great show!
In other words…go see it. Please. You won’t regret it.
The show is playing again March 12, 13, 14, 15, 16. Our tickets were $15/each and worth every red cent.
On the down side…I’ll be humming the songs now for the next month….thanks guys!!
mm..mmmhmmm…be our guest. be our guest….mmh.hhmm.m.m…..