It’s no small feat staging a classic story that’s beloved by generations – especially when that story happens to involve singing and dancing furniture and dishes.
But the students in New Westminster Secondary School’s musical theatre program are up for the challenge. They’re getting ready to stage Disney’s Beauty and the Beast at Massey Theatre, Feb. 26 to 29.
Teilani Rasmussen, the Grade 10 student who’s starring as Belle, confesses she grew up watching Disney movies and dressing as the princess heroines.
“I always wanted to be a Disney princess. Now I’m living out the childhood dream,” she says with a smile, adding she loves the character of Belle. “She’s very headstrong, but loyal and loving. She just has so many dynamics to her.”
Appearing as Gaston, her would-be suitor – and villain of the piece - is Razvan Ion, a Grade 12 student in his first musical theatre outing. He’s enjoying being able to play the key character everyone loves to hate.
“Being villainous is so much fun in the context of theatre,” he says with a grin. “Your entire goal is pretty much to get in the way. It’s a lot of fun to act out that villainous side of things.”
For Lauryn Savela, a Grade 12 student, it’s an adventure playing Madame de la Grande Bouche, the opera-singing wardrobe whom she describes as a “spotlight-hogging extrovert.”
“The role I was cast in is so different from anything I’ve ever played, and from my own personality,” she says with a laugh.
Then there are the teapot and teacup, Mrs. Potts and Chip, played by Skye Wilkinson and Scotia Browner, respectively.
“It’s my first time doing an out-there character that isn’t a person,” says Skye, noting the biggest challenge for her has been learning how to embody something that isn’t human but still bring to life a realistic character.
Scotia agrees, noting she spends the majority of the musical in a cart, with just her head showing, so her eyes and face have to do all the work.
“You have to be very expressive,” she points out.
For Sam Candelaria, playing Babette the feather duster has also been an enjoyable ride. For starters, it’s her first time in a lead role instead of appearing as part of the ensemble. And for another – well, a feather duster can’t exactly move and act like a human being.
“It’s interesting experimenting with the characterization of an inanimate object,” she says.
Also having some fun with their parts are Danny Yang and Gus Campos, as Cogsworth the clock and Lumiere the candelabra, respectively. Digging in and finding the human – and humorous – sides of their characters has been a task the two relish.
“I think Cogsworth is a really funny character,” Danny says, adding it’s also fun to be in a lead role this time. “It’s just so much fun to have attention put on you.”
Gus admits he feels some pressure playing a lead character in a story as “iconic” as Beauty and the Beast – especially since he, unlike many of his castmates, didn’t grow up watching the movie.
“I hold some people’s childhoods in my hands when I’m singing these songs,” he says. “It’s crazy.”
The whole cast knows they have a big job ahead of them, trying to do justice to the story for those fans who loved both the original 1991 animated movie and its 2017 live-action remake.
Skye notes the whole cast is working hard to bring the production up to a high level and make it all as realistic as possible.
“We’ve really worked on making it as believable as it can be,” she says.
“I think we’re staying true to the animation,” he says. “It’s a big task, but I think it will go really well.”
CHECK IT OUT
What: Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, presented by New Westminster Secondary School
Where: Massey Theatre, 735 Eighth Ave.
When: Feb. 26 to 29, with shows Feb. 26 at 6:30 p.m., Feb. 27 to 29 at 7 p.m., and Feb. 29 at 2 p.m.
Tickets: $15 to $20, www.ticketsnw.ca