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NL cast of 'Beauty and the Beast Jr.' bond like 'a big family'

Cary Ashby • Mar 7, 2018 at 6:00 PM

NEW LONDON — To properly portray Madame De La Grande Bouche in “Beauty and the Beast Jr.” at New London, Caileigh Kropka has been trying to be louder at home.

“She is really loud. She turns (back) into an opera singer after they turn into human beings,” said the 16-year-old daughter of Bill and Collette. “That’s pretty different than who I am.”

New London Local Schools will perform “Beauty and the Beast” on March 16 and 17. The first performance is a dinner theater that starts at 6 p.m. with the show at 7. The March 17 performances are at 2 and 7 p.m. Tickets are available at https://www.locallevelevents.com/events/browse.

Junior Trent McCallister portrays the Beast while sophomore Molly Given is playing Belle.

Mrs. Potts is being handled by senior Julia Hicks.

“She is a maternal figure to everybody. She likes to be there for everybody,” Hicks said. “She’s like the stitch that holds everything together.”

On top of that, she said Mrs. Potts gives advice to Beast and generally “is there to keep him calm since she raised him since he was young.” The teenager added that baby-sitting for years has helped her embrace playing a mother-figure.

“I’m always motherly to my friends,” said Hicks, the daughter of Dave and Tonya Shaffer.

Fifth-grader Garrett Shepherd, 11, is one of the many elementary school students in the cast. He plays LeFou, the best friend of Gaston (senior Marshall Blaser). 

The way Shepherd sees it, Gaston is “probably the most popular guy in town.”

“Every girl wants to love him,” said the son of David and Tabi.

“Beauty and the Beast” is Shepherd’s third musical.

“My whole life I’ve loved singing and dancing. For some reason, I just love the stage,” he said.

Junior Hailey Maletz plays one of the six “silly girls” who have a crush on Gaston. 

“(They) are kinda jealous of each other because they all want Gaston for themselves. So we fight over him, basically,” she said. “I believe they are the comedy of the show because they are so crazy over Gaston.”

Rehearsals started about mid-September. The director is elementary-school music teacher Samantha Quallich. New London High School band director and music teacher Lisa Carbone is overseeing the choreography and stage direction.

Cast members said practices have been going very well.

Hicks, who calls the cast “a big family,” said it’s been easy to get into her role of Mrs. Potts and “have fun with it.”

In addition to a strong bond among the cast members, Blaser, who plays Gaston, said there’s also a lot of cooperation, all of which makes rehearsals go much easier.

“We all are a good group of people and friendly,” he added.

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