The chemistry was there. Everything was there for Virden Collegiate’ s production of Beauty and the Beast. Shows ran from May 1 – 4.
Considered the most demanding production yet (over two and a half hours), under the direction of VCI music teacher Director/Producer Michelle Chyzyk, actors and the support crew truly hit a high note - amateur theatre with professional results.
From the swaggering anti-hero Gaston (Dylan Gompf) to the book-reading beautiful Belle (Kennedy Charles), her eccentric inventor Father (Todd Plaisier) and of course the forbidding Beast (Julian Berg) plus the many supporting roles – it was spectacular work.
Every scene had its own fascination, from the comical “doink” (with sound effects) as Gaston knocked LeFou about, to Cogsworth the human timepiece with a cultured accent, proclaiming, “We haven’t got time!” And the sweet Mrs. Potts and son… every actor was stunning, as were the costumes.
Beauty and the Beast flowed on the Aud stage with seamless choreography. Enormous sets glided into action, moved by the actors on a dark stage. Seen in silhouette, they were all part of the play rather than a disruption.
Chyzyk explained, “We talk a lot about that and we are very proud of our scene changes, because at the Aud, there is no choice. It is going to be seen.”
Kudos to sound technician Thomas Humphries and helpers.
Chyzyk likened the epic music to that of Les Misérables. “It’s very lush and very elite in the vocal lines, so that was very challenging. And, we have a very young cast so that was also challenging.”
In fact, all the music in this stage play did what the songs of a musical are supposed to do - carry you deeper than words alone could do.
So, what was my favourite part? Well, high school actors were discovered, such as Gompf, in his first role, a big role, as the wonderfully bold Gaston. But what would he be without LeFou (Garrett Krieser) his sidekick, playing the fool with split-second slapstick timing?
Gaston could sing slightly off-key, at moments, and pull it off! He was that brash!
Says Chyzyk, “The growth in [Gompf] was just immense. It was the first choreographed number we did and it was very interesting watching him process all that. Once he had it – he had it. He worked very hard making that all come to life.”
Charles as Belle was a meek and pretty country girl. She was just right. Spunky, yet tender, her father’s daughter. She was the secret weapon, blooming on stage in her first lead role, her rich, full voice and strong persona shone through as the brave heroine. As the drama unfolded, she grew into a ravishing princess on the arm of her prince.
Among the cast of 50, 30 were first-time performers. Beyond VCI students, the cast included Gr. 5 student Tristan Plaisier and his father Todd, and a host of back-stage support and preparation.
“There’s all these talents and gifts in our community, as well as in our school… there’s a lot of community pride when those shows happen on stage.”
Chyzyk said the audience numbers were “pretty good; we’ll have to see the bottom line. It was an expensive show to produce.”
Her goal – to continue to grow an appreciation for theatre in the Aud Theatre.
After the final performance on Saturday afternoon, Chyzyk shed a few tears. She explained, “It’s pretty special when you see young people pouring out their hearts and souls and working together to make something really difficult, and yet magical, happen.”