Friday, September 18, 2020
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Certain as the sun rising in the east

Certain as the sun, rising in the east, musicals are on stage in high schools across America this spring, and we spent our first visit Saturday at the closing night of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast at Perry Hall High School in Baltimore County.

The walls in the Perry Hall theater (Voxitatis)

As the title song goes, rendered tunefully here with an airy and uplifting spirit by Mrs Potts (Emily Flach), the tales that are told on these stages are as old as time and the songs that are sung as old as rhyme.

And while musicals may be as regular and recurring at high schools as falling in love is in, well, just about every place, the set at Perry Hall was anything but regular, featuring an enormous backdrop, painted to show the insides of the Beast’s castle, with winding staircases and other elaborate ornamentation—a true work of art in its own right (Nick Beverati, set design; Kayla Sturgis, stage manager).

A beast of a distinctly non-musical character came to the high school in 2012 when a student opened fire on his peers during the school day. He was subsequently sentenced to 35 years in prison. The Beast’s castle also features a prison cell in the dungeon, where he temporarily holds Belle’s father captive until she sacrifices her own freedom to secure his release.

Shortly after that, Belle (Alexis Arthur) returns home to look for her father and then discovers she was wrong about the Beast:

For in my dark despair, I slowly understood
My perfect world out there had disappeared for good.
But in its place I feel a truer life begin.
And it’s so good and real, it must come from within.

And her “inner beauty,” that stuff that renders our actions and character more relevant than our looks, shines through with every note. Our identity becomes fulfilled in our nurturing of relationships, not in our outward signs like looks or wit. Never has that been more apparent than in this love story, where a beautiful voice prevails in the face of antics and outward appearances that fool village girls and other townspeople at every turn.

Mrs Potts exemplifies the identity crisis at the heart of this paradoxical juxtaposition. She was once a human being, and now she’s a teapot. Yet the dialog never ceases to portray her—and all the lamps, wardrobes, and beasts—as fully human. They maintain their memories, their dreams, their hopes, and their longing for unselfish love.

Ms Arthur brings to Belle a smooth and swelling voice that fits her role as an antagonist, because she sings straight to our hearts about the show’s many themes, just as she sings to the Beast and to herself. Her tunes are unfailingly self-reflective and soft, as she pays no mind to the braggadocio of Gaston (a well-crafted Mekhi Dashiell) but instead tends to the inner character of the show’s many protagonists.

Disney's Beauty and the Beast in March

Based on license agreements with Music Theater International, the following high schools will put Disney’s Beauty and the Beast on stage in the remainder of this month:

  1. Downers Grove North High School, Downers Grove, IL (3/7–9)
  2. North Shore Country Day School, Winnetka, IL (3/7–9)
  3. Geneva High School, Geneva, IL (3/15–17)
  4. Danville High School, Danville, IL (3/16–17)
  5. Stockton High School, Stockton, IL (3/22–23)
  6. North Dorchester High School, Hurlock, MD (3/7–10)
  7. Open Bible Christian Academy, Kingsville, MD (3/15–16)
  8. Fredericktown High School, Fredericktown, OH (3/7–9)
  9. Midland Park High School, Midland Park, NJ (3/29–3/31)
  10. Hicksville High School, Hicksville, OH (3/14–17)
  11. Central Montcalm High School, Stanton, MI (3/7–9)
  12. Osbourn High School, Manassas, VA(3/22–30)
  13. Felix Varela High School, Miami, FL (3/6–8)
  14. Otselic Valley High School, South Otselic, NY (3/29–30)
  15. Breckinridge County High School, Harned, KY (3/21–23)
  16. South Forsyth High School, Cumming, GA (3/7–17)
  17. Cadillac High School, Cadillac, MI (3/7–9)
  18. Diamond High School, Diamond, MO (3/28–30)
  19. Foundation Academy, Winter Garden, FL (3/28–30)
  20. Paulding High School, Paulding, OH (3/15–17)
  21. Lima Christian School, Honeoye Falls, NY (3/8–9)
  22. Connetquot High School, Bohemia, NY (3/14–16)
  23. Manchester Regional High School, Haledon, NJ (3/15–16)
  24. Alfred Almond Central School, Almond, NY (3/14–17)
  25. Berwick Area High School, Berwick, PA (3/15–17)
  26. Heritage Hills High School, Lincoln City, IN (3/7–17)
  27. Cobleskill-Richmondville Central School, Cobleskill, NY (3/15–17)
  28. Blytheville High School, Blytheville, AR (3/29–31)
  29. Bristol High School, Bristol, PA (3/8–10)
  30. Red Mountain High School, Mesa, AZ (3/21–30)
  31. Horseheads High School, Horseheads, NY (3/7–9)
  32. Rocky Mountain High School, Ft Collins, CO (3/14–16)
  33. Weyauwega Fremont High School, Weyauwega, WI (3/29–31)
  34. Southwest High School, Minneapolis, MN (3/14–24)
  35. Bishop Fenwick High School, Middletown, OH (3/29–31)
  36. Catskill High School, Catskill, NY (3/29–31)
  37. Delone Catholic High School, McSherrystown, PA (3/15–17)
  38. Selinsgrove Area High School, Selinsgrove, PA (3/14–16)
  39. Stevenson High School, Livonia, MI (3/21–23)
  40. Plattsburgh High School, Plattsburgh, NY (3/15–17)
  41. The Dalles High School, The Dalles, OR (3/14–23)
  42. Mills High School, Millbrae, CA (3/21–23)
  43. Eagle Point High School, Eagle Point, OR (3/8–16)
  44. Milton Hershey School, Hershey, PA (3/7–9)
  45. New Haven High School, New Haven, IN (3/22–24)
  46. Dowagiac Union High School, Dowagiac, MI (3/22–24)
  47. Depew High School, Depew, NY (3/15–16)
  48. Mililani High School, Pearl City, HI (3/15–17)
  49. Valdosta High School, Valdosta, GA (3/28–30)
  50. Hastings High School, Hastings, MI (3/14–16)
  51. May River High School, Bluffton, SC (3/7–9)
  52. Lafargeville High School, Lafargeville, NY (3/15–16)
  53. Lutheran High School, Parker, CO (3/15–17)
  54. Clear Lake High School, Lakeport, CA (3/22–24)
  55. North Moore High School, Robbins, NC (3/22–24)
  56. Northwest Christian High School, Colbert, WA (3/8–16)
  57. Conway High School, Conway, SC (3/28–31)
  58. Newfane Senior High School, Newfane, NY (3/8–10)
  59. Toledo Christian School, Toledo, OH (3/21–23)
  60. Tri Valley High School, Hegins, PA (3/15–17)
  61. Kingsway Regional High School, Woolwich, NJ (3/7–9)
  62. Cibola High School, Yuma, AZ (3/7–17)
  63. Brookwood High School, Tuscaloosa, AL (3/22–23)
  64. St John The Baptist High School, West Islip, NY (3/8–10)
  65. Harrisburg Christian School Harrisburg, PA (3/14–16)
  66. Siegel High School, Murfreesboro, TN (3/14–18)

Book by Linda Woolverton, music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice. In performance Friday and Saturday, March 1–2, at Perry Hall High School in Perry Hall, Maryland. Directed by Andrew Worthington, pit orchestra directed by Scott Engel, musical direction by Stephanie Plitt. Brian Kraft and Emma Smith, student directors.

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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