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Monroeville students rehearsing for 'Beauty and the Beast'

Cary Ashby • Mar 24, 2017 at 12:00 PM

MONROEVILLE — Alexis Kurtycz is playing her favorite Disney princess, Belle, in the musical version of her “favorite movie of all time.”

“I connect with Belle,” said the Monroeville High School junior and daughter of Robert and Holley. “She doesn’t conform to what anybody else thinks.”

The Monroeville production of “Beauty and the Beast” will be performed at 7 p.m. March 30, 31 and April 1. Tickets are $8 and available for purchase by coming to the school or rehearsals, which are 5:30 to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday.

It’s a timely coincidence since the Disney live-action remake has been putting up blockbuster-style numbers. According to Box Office Mojo, “Beauty and the Beast” had an opening weekend of about $170 million — a new record for a March film that beats last year’s “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.”

Kurtycz sees storylines involving many other Disney princesses focusing on dating and finding true love, but that’s not the case with Belle.

“She’s not easily controlled. … It’s a really important lesson to young girls. You don’t have to listen to everyone. You can be your own person,” she said. 

Kurtycz was in “Shrek the Musical” as a freshman and last year, she was in “Annie.”

“I’ve never had a lead (part) before, so I know how important the other roles are. Even if I wasn’t (playing) Belle, I’d be excited to be in a musical,” the junior said.

Director Christine Turner said members of the Monroeville school community have recommended the students perform “Beauty and the Beast” for many years. 

“The show takes a lot of space,” said Turner, who is in her ninth year directing musicals.

Due to the required sets, the auditorium is set up with 100 seats on the basketball court instead of the usual 200. 

Turner and assistant director Teri Robinson chose “Beauty and the Beast” after drama students also had the option of “The Little Mermaid” and “Little Shop of Horrors.” 

“The kids were more excited about ‘Beauty and the Beast,’” said Turner, who teaches general music to first- through third-graders and is the choir director for fifth through 12th grade.

Cast members and Turner said rehearsals have been “a lot of hard work,” but going well.

“Once they get off book, that’s when you can really start working with them. They can start developing the characters,” the director added.

Kurtycz agreed, saying she feels like she truly is “part of the story” and can get into the choreography when she’s not using her script. She also said there are times when she has a “light bulb moment” after she’s done a certain scene multiple times.

No matter how grueling a rehearsal may be, junior Izzy Ballard said “it’s still a really good time.” She is the daughter of Matt and Farrah Hales and Matt and Nikki Ballard.

Izzy Ballard plays Lumiére, the candlestick. 

“He keeps Beast in check,” she said. “He’s Beast’s dating coach. He’s his wing man. … He gives him pep talks.

“Without Lumiére, (Beast and Belle) wouldn’t be together,” Ballard added.

Having performed in various theater productions for 10 years, the teenager said such experiences showcase her admittedly dramatic and expressive personality.

“I’m known for being the comedic-relief character. It’s great to be recognized and appreciated for who I am — the dramatic, crazy girl,” she said.

Senior David J. Carey plays Beast, which has added more depth to the variety of characters he has played in “Seussical the Musical,” “Annie” and “Shrek the Musical.”

When Carey sings “If I Can’t Love Her,” he said Beast reflects on how he might not be able to get out of his situation. Beast is a prince who has been altered by a magic spell.

Carey’s director said the song is “the first time we see the Beast has feelings.”

Ballard compares Beast to the Grinch who eventually finds love in his “baby heart.”

“Beast is angry at the beginning. By the end, he has companionship. He realizes he doesn’t need to be angry because he’s not lonely anymore,” she said.

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