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IN THE CLASSROOM:Stage production a thing of ‘Beauty’

Laguna Beach High School has invited the community to “be its guest” at its production of “Beauty and the Beast,” which opened last night at the Artists’ Theatre.

One of the only animated films ever to win Best Picture honors at the Academy Awards, the beloved tale of an eccentric beauty and the enchanted creature she falls in love with was made into a wildly popular Broadway musical.

The Laguna production pays homage to these remarkable roots using a grant from the Festival of Arts.

Drama teacher and co-director Mark Dressler has assembled a massive set, and procured than 100 costumes.

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“The Festival has always been so good for our musicals,” Dressler said. “Every year, they help us do amazing sets.”

But Dressler knows how to spot a bargain, as well. When faced with $185 rolling waiter tables for the “Be Our Guest” routine, his team came up with a $25 trash can on casters that served just as well when covered with a white tablecloth.

Every detail is rehearsed and re-rehearsed in the show, to ensure the exacting level of quality expected by Dressler.

“It’s a lot of time, but it’s well-spent,” said Monique Thomas, who plays the magical Wardrobe that consoles hapless heroine Belle.

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Ever the perfectionist, choreographer Tod Kubo arranged the curtain call as carefully as the show itself.

Rather than simple lineups for bows, the cast waltzes and pivots their way into a multi-layered assemblage.

A gaggle of eighth-graders from Thurston Middle School work behind the scenes.

The kids are led in their on-set tasks by Thurston teacher Andy Crisp.

They aren’t the only non-high-schoolers involved with the production — show-stealing kindergartner Drake Fay plays Chip, the precocious teacup, to great effect.

Sam Trusley, who plays Gaston, has been a guitar player in the high school band since acting at Thurston. Now a senior, he decided to try out for a part and was given a lead role as the chauvinistic villain with an aim for Belle’s heart. His campy, Barry Manilow-style performance is only topped by his mutton chop sideburns and a ponytail that looks almost like a mullet.

Trusley disagrees with the resemblance, though.

“Gaston does not sport a mullet,” he said.

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Belle is played by Kimberly Reisman, whose voice is highly evocative of the film version. She earned acclaim from many as Laurie in last year’s production of “Oklahoma.”

“But I think this is kind of her breakout role,” musical director Roxanna Ward said. “Kimberly’s ready to go off to college and run a corporation or be an ambassador.”

Ward said that since she’s known most of the kids since they were in middle school, she thinks often about their futures.

She worked patiently with the high school orchestra at Monday’s dress rehearsal, helping them with their pacing during the emblematic “Be Our Guest” number with instrumental director Phil Felix.

“I think we have a tendency at this age to want to rush everything,” Ward said, smiling. “It’s like aging a wine.”

Most of the kids are also familiar with the film version of the show, which can be both a benefit and a hindrance — minor changes in the musical version tripped them up, several said — although it was nice to know the lines going in.


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