‘Beauty and the Beast’ Graces HMS Stage

March 20, 2015

by Maureen Gillum

To the delight of the Hudson community, Hudson Memorial School brought to life Disney’s version of “Beauty and the Beast” on March 13 and 14.

Originally based on an 18th century French fairy tale, written by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont, the show reminded the audience of several key and timeless messages, like don’t judge a book by its cover and always be yourself.

The show features the relationship between the Beast (Jake Apitz), a prince transformed into a monster by an enchantress’ spell for his arrogance, and Belle (Sophia Garas), the independent and lovely village bookworm.  While the Beast initially imprisons Belle in his castle, the two grow to understand and love each other.

“Beauty and the Beast” is primarily played out in Belle’s small French renaissance village and the nearby castle, where all have been caught for the last 10 years in an enchantress’ spell – the prince as a beast and his servants as household items.

Key players in the lively village included Belle’s father, an eccentric inventor named Maurice (Murray Reynolds); the brutish and arrogant Gaston (Christopher Graham), who plots to marry Belle; his humorous side-kick, Lefou (Liam Soto) and Monsieur D’Arque the warden (Tyler Blanchette).

The enchanting castle ensemble were Lumiere the candlestick (Jack Gasdia), Cogsworth the clock (Becky Labrie), Mrs. Potts the teapot (Rachel Hickey), her daughter Chip the teacup (Madailein Lindsay), Madame De La Grande Bouche the wardrobe (Madison Hoglund) and Babette the maid (Kristina McCarthy).

Another exciting part of the annual HMS musicals is bringing in all the Hudson 5th graders to see the show during the Thursday morning dress rehearsal.  This not only gives the younger set a ‘sneak preview’ of the musical but also of the middle school they will likely attend next year.  Fifth grader, Allyana, of Hills Garrison proclaimed the show as “great!”  Her classmate, Destiny, simply added, “I loved it!”

The live pit orchestra, made up of more than 10 talented HMS and Alvirne musicians, also did a marvelous job performing such favorite songs as “Is This Home,” “Be our Guest,” “Something out There,” and “Beauty and the Beast.”

The show’s superb dozen lead players were aptly supported by nearly 50 other enthusiastic and talented ensemble cast members.  Another 25 backstage artists assisted with the show’s elaborate costumes, impressive scenery, lighting and sound.  Special shout outs go to Jan Walsh (scenery), Robyn McCellan (choreography), Mike O’Keefe (sound), Erin Hebert (lights) and Sarah Seckla (orchestra pit) and all of the Alvirne High School backstage helpers and orchestra musicians.

“There’s so much talent here and everyone has worked so hard.  The show is just phenomenal!,” proudly shared first-year HMS Principal Keith Bowen.  “I’m most impressed with how everything came together, which is a real tribute to the great leadership in our staff and volunteers.”

While the casts, crews and audiences have changed over nearly a decade, what has remained remarkably steady is the untiring and dedicated foursome behind every HMS show.  This includes HMS’ talented music staff – Diane “Magic Fingers” Destrempe, Rob “No Shoes” Scagnelli and Mike “The Tool Man” Seckla, who masterfully tackle all of the music, band and detailed direction of each show.  The last vital team member is Sue “Black Jellybean” Weis, production volunteer extraordinaire, who manages everything from props, costumes, and sets to programs, ad sales, and tickets – and the coordination of everything in between.

“I’m consistently blown away by the talent and bravery of these kids each year,” exclaimed Mrs. Weis.  “I love that (our shows) have a place for everybody – to be a part of and to belong.  It’s an amazing and rare gift that I’m thrilled to be a part of.”

After the dress rehearsal Thursday morning, the foursome exuberantly reminisced about all the HMS shows over the past nine years.  HMS musicals began with the “Wizard of Oz” in 2006, followed by “Seussical,” “Bugsy Malone,” “Willy Wonka,” “Sound of Music,” “Music Man,” “Crazy for You,” and last year’s “Annie.”  Collectively, these productions have involved close to 1,000 HMS students and have touched so many more.

“I don’t think we could ever really pick one as best – they are all my favorite and all so very different,” shared Mrs. D, “Truly, every group and every show steals our hearts.”

Since 2006, the HMS musicals have greatly enriched and entertained the Hudson community.  Bravo to the cast, crew, orchestra, HMS staff and volunteers – and many thanks!