2 beauties, 2 beasts, and a tale as old as time

Spring musicals got off to a loving and beautiful start in Maryland this weekend, as students at both Owings Mills and Elkton high schools performed Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.


Evita is playing through tonight at Broadneck H.S. in Annapolis, Md. (school via Twitter)

Both shows close tonight with a 7 PM curtain, but Elkton also has a matinee performance at 2 PM. The animated Disney movie that became a musical is one of the most common shows performed on high school stages across America and is appropriate for all ages, provided actors don’t get too rough with the choreography for the wolves in the forest. In fact, in the production at Owings Mills, a few of the villagers enlisted the help of about a dozen 2- to 5-year-olds in the audience to come up on stage and listen to the narrator reading to them about the backstory behind the beast’s conversion from a prince to an ogre.

At Elkton, the performance came alive, despite some stage blocking and props issues, through the work of the two leads, Caitlyn Rund as Belle and Julius Brown as the Beast. These two had leading roles in the Wizard of Oz last year at the high school, and the chemistry they brought to the stage held this show together.

Beauty and the Beast features a somewhat long, somewhat slow-moving plot, but Mr Brown’s booming tenor and Ms Rund’s expressiveness as an actor both gave us weary audience members something to look forward to, something that brought a smile to our faces. Her facial expressions and body language were memorable, especially as the sexist-egoist oaf, Gaston (Erik Maitland and his commanding baritone presence), tries to cart her off to force her to marry him or as she plays both a protagonist and an antagonist with the Beast.

Add to that the costumes (Cogsworth’s clock had an actual pendulum and a wind-up handle on the back) and an ensemble that included Hakim Grant and a few tumbling runs, and Elkton really put their mark on this musical. In addition to Mr Brown’s voice, we were also treated to the vocal styling of Taylor Gilbert, who played Mrs Potts and announced in song the show’s home stretch with the popular “Beauty and the Beast” theme. She’s been singing since she was 5, and her singing at the end fit perfectly with the action and mood of the characters and gave the chemistry the two leads had for each other a real spark.

At Owings Mills, while the chemistry between the leads wasn’t very well developed, the singing stood tall from junior Mary Barton, who played Belle. It’s not easy to figure out all the complexities of Belle’s character—she’s “sweet and sassy,” Ms Barton said—but it helps if the singer can belt it out from anywhere on the stage, or even as she exits off the front of the stage through the house. The vocal part isn’t difficult in terms of being rapid, but it’s tough in terms of very long phrases that need to be projected above the orchestra while staying in character.

This is a skill Ms Barton’s pure mezzo has clearly tuned. She’s been in four other musicals at Owings Mills, according to the playbill, and says singing is her favorite thing to do—except for making new friends on the casts of musicals, that is. The set here, built by a team of more than 10 students, even had real hardcover books in the library for Belle to read.

Musicals support the educational programs in our schools not only by giving students opportunities to interact with others, but also by getting hundreds of them to put in hours and hours of work as part of a team to produce an interdisciplinary work of art. Cast members in the ensemble at Owings Mills, with their nicely touched characters throughout, filled the stage with dancing plates, flatware, and other morphing humans and drove home the opposition of Gaston’s gorgeousness with evil potential and the Beast’s hideousness with princely potential.

Both high schools used professional musicians in the pit orchestra for Beauty and the Beast, a practice I don’t recommend, because it reduces the opportunity for students to grow as musicians and, again, as members of a team working toward a common goal.

The logic, of course, is that musical books are difficult to play and the sound from some students won’t be as good as it is from professional musicians. I’ve heard hundreds of high school productions, however, use students to bring a great sound from the pit—and boost students’ enrichment and development to boot.

Look, the main purpose of high school is to learn, not to put on a professional-quality show. The shows aren’t intended to be Broadway productions, although that’s what students aim for. But no one should have to listen to a professional pianist play an overture or entr’acte—especially one as long as that in Beauty and the Beast—when we know there’s an opportunity cost here for advancing the schools’ missions. Unless students are involved, schools might as well purchase the rights to use the accompaniment sound track (karaoke style), which will sound even better than professional musicians and not eat up the schedules of those professionals.

Musicals this spring at Maryland high schools

Based on contracts signed with rights-management companies, the following musicals are coming to Maryland high schools this spring. Please note that information is subject to change without notice on these pages, as many times, a school will sign a contract and not actually perform the musical. For example, Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Greenbelt had three different musical titles listed in the rights-management database. When we checked the school’s website, they were performing only Shrek. If we missed yours, please write to us at editor@schoolsnapshots.org so we can correct it here.

Cinderella

Catonsville H.S., Catonsville, Feb. 24–25
Lansdowne H.S., Baltimore, Feb. 24–25
Havre de Grace H.S., Havre de Grace, March 3–5
Kent Island H.S., Stevensville, March 2–12 (2 wknds.)
Chopticon H.S., Morganza, March 23–25
Oakdale H.S., Ijamsville, March 30–April 1
Thomas S. Wootton H.S., Rockville, March 24–April 2 (2 wknds.)

Disney’s The Little Mermaid

Kent County H.S., Worton, March 3–5
River Hill H.S., Clarksville, March 3–5
Winters Mill H.S., Westminster, March 24–April 1
Snow Hill H.S., Snow Hill, March 30–April 1
North County H.S., Glen Burnie, April 20–29 (2 wknds.)
Brunswick H.S., Brunswick, May 4–6

The Addams Family

Damascus H.S., Damascus, March 30–April 1
Leonardtown H.S., Leonardtown, March 24–April 2 (2 wknds.)
Towson H.S., Towson, March 30–April 2
Linganore H.S., Frederick, April 4–9

Annie

St. Maria Goretti H.S., Hagerstown, March 2–4
South Carroll H.S., Sykesville, March 3–11 (2 wknds.)
Patapsco Sr. H.S., Baltimore, March 16–19
North Hagerstown H.S., Hagerstown, April 21–22

Seussical

Glenelg H.S., Glenelg, March 2–5
Wilde Lake H.S., Columbia, March 9–11
McDonough H.S., Pomfret, March 30–April 1
Colonel Richardson H.S., Federalsburg, May 5–7

Thoroughly Modern Millie

Magruder H.S., Rockville, March 3–11
Poolesville H.S., Poolesville, March 30–April 1
Manchester Valley H.S., Manchester, March 24–April 1 (2 wknds.)
St. Mary’s Ryken H.S., Leonardtown, March 23–26

Disney’s Beauty and the Beast

Owings Mills H.S., Owings Mills, Feb. 17–18
Elkton H.S., Elkton, Feb. 16–18
Edgewood H.S., Edgewood, March 10–12

Hairspray

Perry Hall H.S., Baltimore, Feb. 23–25
Sparrows Point H.S., Baltimore, March 31–April 2
Gov. Thomas Johnson H.S., Frederick, April 28–May 6 (2 wknds.)

Disney’s High School Musical

Mardela H.S., Mardela Springs, Feb. 24–25
Long Reach H.S., Columbia, March 30–April 2
Elizabeth Seton H.S., Bladensburg, April 28–29

Legally Blonde

Dulaney H.S., Timonium, March 30–April 1
Northwood H.S., Silver Spring, April 27–29
La Plata H.S., La Plata, April 27–30

Les Misérables

North Dorchester H.S., Hurlock, March 2–5
Arundel Sr. H.S., Gambrills, March 24–April 2 (2 wknds.)
Calvert Hall College H.S., Baltimore, March 31–April 9 (2 wknds.)

Shrek

Thomas Stone H.S., Waldorf, March 30–April 1
Old Mill H.S., Millersville, March 31–April 8 (2 wknds.)
Eleanor Roosevelt H.S., Greenbelt, March 31–April 8 (2 wknds.)

West Side Story

Mt. Hebron H.S., Ellicott City, March 17–25 (2 wknds.)
Annapolis Sr. H.S., Annapolis, March 24–April 2 (2 wknds.)
Francis Scott Key H.S., Union Bridge, March 31–April 8 (2 wknds.)

All Shook Up

Albert Einstein H.S., Kensington, March 3–12 (2 wknds.)
Meade H.S., Fort George G Meade, April 5–7

Bye Bye Birdie

Howard H.S., Ellicott City, March 1–4
Northern Garrett H.S., Accident, April 27–29

Fiddler on the Roof

Clear Spring H.S., Clear Spring, April 7–9
Allegany H.S., Cumberland, April 27–30

Guys and Dolls

Loch Raven H.S., Towson, Feb. 24–25
Williamsport H.S., Williamsport, April 21–29 (2 wknds.)

Little Shop of Horrors

Ft. Hill H.S., Cumberland, April 6–9
Great Mills H.S., Great Mills, April 20–22

Mary Poppins

Walkersville H.S., Walkersville, March 23–26
Southern H.S., Harwood, April 6–8

The Music Man

Marriotts Ridge H.S., Marriottsville, March 16–19
Perryville H.S., Perryville, April 6–8

Pippin

Archbishop Spalding H.S., Severn, Feb. 24–March 4 (2 wknds.)
Springbrook H.S., Silver Spring, March 17–25 (2 wknds.)

School of Rock

Northern H.S., Owings, April 21–23
Bohemia Manor H.S., Chesapeake City, April 26–28

Sister Act

Northwest H.S., Germantown, March 24–April 2 (2 wknds.)
Tuscarora H.S., Frederick, April 6–8

The Sound of Music

Queen Anne’s County H.S., Centreville, March 3–12 (2 wknds.)
Catholic H.S., Baltimore, March 17–18

The Wizard of Oz

Franklin Sr. H.S., Reisterstown, March 17–25 (2 wknds.)
Seneca Valley H.S., Germantown, March 30–April 1

Billy Elliot, the Musical

Huntingtown H.S., Huntingtown, March 31–April 8 (2 wknds.)

Charlie Brown (rev.)

Archbishop Curley H.S., Baltimore, March 17–19

Children of Eden

Rising Sun H.S., Northeast, March 9–12

A Chorus Line

Patuxent H.S., Lusby, April 21–29 (2 wknds.)

The Crucible

Walt Whitman H.S., Bethesda, Feb. 23–25

Damn Yankees

Middletown H.S., Middletown, April 7–9

Evita

Broadneck Sr. H.S., Annapolis, Feb. 16–18

Footloose

Quince Orchard H.S., Gaithersburg, March 24–April 1 (2 wknds.)

Hello, Dolly!

Centennial H.S., Ellicott City, March 23–26

Honk!

Paint Branch H.S., Burtonsville, March 24–April 1 (2 wknds.)

How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying

Reservoir H.S., Fulton, March 30–April 2

In the Heights

Clarksburg H.S., Clarksburg, March 23–April 1 (2 wknds.)

Into the Woods

Century H.S., Sykesville, March (23) 25–April 1 (2 wknds.)

Oliver

Mt. St. Joseph H.S., Baltimore, April 7–9

The Phantom of the Opera

Walter Johnson H.S., Bethesda, March 24–April 1 (2 wknds.)

Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka

Rockville H.S., Rockville, March 30–April 1

Singin’ in the Rain

Southern Garrett H.S., Oakland, May 11–13

Songs for a New World

Parkville H.S., Baltimore, March 31–April 1

South Pacific

Cambridge-South Dorchester H.S., Cambridge, March 9–12

13

Atholton H.S., Columbia, March 2–4

Tick Tock Boom

Bethesda-Chevy Chase H.S., Bethesda, March 10–11

Titanic

Our Lady of Good Counsel H.S., Olney, March 24–April 1 (2 wknds.)

Urinetown

North East H.S., North East, May 5–13 (2 wknds.)

About the Author

Paul Katula
Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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