A ‘beast’ of a production -NHS chooses Disney classic

Aaron Krause • Oct 29, 2015 at 12:10 PM

Nicholas Nay’s peers describe the Norwalk High School senior as nice, polite and happy; quite a departure from the uncouth, growling, short-tempered creature the Norwalk High School senior portrays in “Beauty and the Beast.”

Those same peers describe Joe Leffler as smart, sophisticated and intelligent. It’s safe to say that, unlike his character Gaston, Leffler would not sneer at someone with a strong interest in books. It’s even safer to say Leffler would not roughly handle women.

“It’s probably the most opposite thing (that) I’d ever do,” Leffler said. He added Gaston’s antics scare him at times.

“But it’s fun,” he said about playing the character.

“He plays that part perfectly,” production director Carol Phillips chimed in.

In a way, it is fitting the actors are so different from their characters; “Beauty and the Beast” itself is a show unlike many others.

The musical, set for performances Friday, Saturday and Sunday, has such characters as forks, knives, a wardrobe, a teacup, a corkscrew, napkin and cheese grater.

They all talk.

As a result of such characters, preparing for “Beauty and the Beast” has taken more time — and fabric — then an ordinary musical.

“This is the kind of play that (makes me say) ‘Never again,’” Phillips said. She added renting all of “Beauty and the Beast’s” costumes and scenery would have cost nearly $10,000.

That will be money saved, since many of the cast members’ parents volunteered to build several costumes and set pieces.

Phillips said parents got to work on the costumes in January, as opposed to early February for previous musicals.

“It’s fabulous; fabulous,” she said, referring to their efforts. “The parents were just like ‘Oh yeah, we can do this. We can figure it out.”

While parents made most of the material, the cast rented some of the scenery from the Beck Center for the Arts, a nonprofit performing arts and arts education organization in Lakewood. The Beck Center staged “Beauty and the Beast” the last three holiday seasons.

Cast members got to see the Beck Center version, but said their production will be different.

One thing’s for certain: They will not reveal how the prince turns into a beast, or other seemingly magical transformations.

You’ll just have to watch in amazement during one of the performances, which are set for 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday at the Ernsthausen Performing Arts Center.

While the magical feats remain under wraps, there are no secrets about the costumes.

Senior Alex Fresch plays a human turned teapot, Mrs. Potts. Fresch said it took 15 yards of material and four hula hoops to create her outfit. Her mother and grandmother worked on the costume for about a month.

“It’s actually really comfortable,” Fresch said.    

Ryan Wagner, a junior, is not as comfortable with his costume, which he described as a “big box.” Wagner plays a clock, Cogsworth, and said the swinging pendulum impedes his movement.

Lindsey Aldrich, a senior, said she’s fine with her costume, as long as her shoulders are covered. She plays “Madame Wardrobe,” whose costume took her mother at least 20 hours to make. As part of the costume, Wooden sticks rest on her shoulders.

“It’s worth it,” she said, adding she just “sucks it up.”

Ditto for sophomore Ashley Silcox. “It’s uncomfortable but it’s a lot of fun so it doesn’t faze me,” said Silcox, who plays Chip the teacup.

Senior Liz Hipp, who plays Belle, almost wishes she could don one of the costumes.

“You see how much fun they’re having with these costumes,” she said.


WHAT: “Beauty and the Beast”

WHEN: 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday as well as 3 p.m. Sunday

WHERE: Ernsthausen Performing Arts Center

TICKET INFORMATION: You will have the chance to purchase tickets from 5:30 to 8 p.m. today and Wednesday at the Ernsthausen Performing Arts Center box office.

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