‘Beauty and the Beast’ is Coming to Western

‘Beauty and the Beast’ is Coming to Western

Cast members of "Beauty and the Beast" work on the music they need to learn for the musical. SweetwaterNOW photo by Paul Murray

ROCK SPRINGS — There’s been the animated movie, and then the live-action film, and now thanks to local young thespians the charming story of “Beauty and the Beast” will be seen right in front of local eyes.

“Beauty and the Beast”, or “B&B” for short, will be presented live on stage at the Western Wyoming Community College (Western) Theater on July 26 & 27, starting at 7 p.m. The play, featuring plenty of song and dance routines, is part of the Sweetwater Board of Cooperative Educational Services (SBOCES) summer theater program for youth.

The role of Belle the Beauty is being played by Serena Berrett, a senior-to-be at Rock Springs High School (RSHS). The “Beast” role has been given to Harrison Hopkins, a sophomore-to-be at Green River High School (GRHS).

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For those who are not familiar with the tale, B&B is about a handsome prince who is turned into a heavy, hairy beast creature by a witch as punishment for being rude to her when she came begging at his door.

But not only that, the servants and other members of the prince’s household were turned from being human into various objects such as a candlestick, tea kettle, tea cup, clock, closet, and other household items. In order for the spell to be broken, the Beast must convince a young woman to fall in love with him before the rapidly approaching deadline comes and the spell becomes permanent. Into this mixture comes Belle, unwittingly. Can the Beast entice Belle to fall in love with him? The play answers that question.

The B&B music was created by Allen Menken and the lyrics by Tim Rice and Howard Ashman. The original story was from a book by Linda Woolverton, based upon a French fairy tale.

The Excitement, The Challenges

Jaron Shereda is directing the play. Shereda graduated in May from Western with an associate’s degree in musical theater. Eric Richard De Lora, professor of musical theater at Western, is overseeing the production.

Shereda, from Green River, estimated that around 60 youths are participating in the B&B play, ranging in age from 8-18. B&B will be a much bigger production than the recent BOCES presentation of Hamlet, which featured a much smaller cast of only 12 individuals. Shereda added that the play will feature a few songs which were not in the movie.

“The kids have varying levels of (theater) skills,” Shereda explained. “You never know what you’ll get.”

That said, he expressed strong enthusiasm and enjoyment of the opportunity to direct young actors and actresses, many of whom are in elementary school or junior high.

“The kids put in a lot of work and it really shows,” Shereda said. “For some of the kids, it’s their first time ever being in a musical. They’ve never been in a musical before. For other kids, they’ve danced and sung for years. We hope to give all the kids the best opportunity to showcase their talents. We do our best.”

The majority of the kids in the play are from Rock Springs, but there are Green River kids in the play as well, Shereda said. He added that although the majority of the kids in the play are girls, there are more boys in the B&B play than is typical for a musical.

“The kids enjoy bringing to life fairy tale stories that they’ve heard, and to sing and dance and perform at the same time,” Shereda said.

Shereda plans to continue his musical theater studies at Weber State University this fall.

Timothy Golightly, a 2022 graduate of GRHS, is the stage manager/part musical director for B&B. He explained his job as essentially ensuring that everything the stage director wants to happen, happens. Making sure that light cues and sound cues come off as planned, as well as helping to teach the songs, keeps Golightly busy.

“As long as everything happens correctly, we’re good,” Golightly said.

“I enjoy the energy the kids bring to the play,” Golightly added. “I like their eagerness to learn, the way their eyes light up as they learn. Still, it means keeping track of 60 or more kids at a time.”

After taking a year off from schooling to earn some cash, Golightly will begin his studies at Western this coming fall.

Marquel Hawkins from Evanston is the choreographer for the play. Hawkins graduated in May from Western with an associate’s degree in musical theater.

“I was a little nervous going in, but the kids have been more receptive to instruction than I would have thought,” Hawkins said. “They’re able to get it pretty fast, pretty easy. And I have good help.”

The B&B Bring Their Own Perspectives

The two principles in “Beauty and the Beast” are putting their own stamp on the play. “I tend to be headstrong and fun-loving,” Berrett said. “I want Belle to be more fun than in the movie, more upbeat and playful.”

“I like to get loud, angry,” Hopkins said. “But sometimes I feel like I’m too nice. The Beast character allows me to get all that anger out. It brings out what I like to do, being loud.” Hopkins has his own take on working with kid actors and actresses who are a lot younger than he is.

“I like the diversity of age groups here. (But) It can be hard to get their attention because they’re so excited to be here,” Hopkins said. “The kids sometimes have random outbursts, and I just tell myself ‘Okay, that’s cool, I guess.’”

The BOCES sponsorship of the summer theater program for young actors and actresses enables youths to keep up their skills and even stretch them at a time of year when school is out and some kids may be looking for something to do.

In 2022, BOCES sponsored the play “Matilda” featuring extensive song and dance routines. Hawkins estimated there will be around 20 songs in “Beauty and the Beast”, which should more than satisfy the appetite of any local musical theater lover.