It’s obvious that the theater group Excelsior Performing Arts has spent many hours preparing for its upcoming presentation of Disney’s ‘Beauty and the Beast’ musical on Broadway.
During a dress rehearsal, several cast and crew members spoke with The Daily Press about the musical, which begins Friday, April 8 at the Victor Valley College Performing Arts Center in Victorville.
“This will be our first time back on stage since the COVID-19 lockdown canceled our show after a performance in 2020,” said vocal music director Sandy Sooter. “Two years ago, we spent hours preparing ‘The Music Man,’ to close after opening night.”
Sooter said this year’s students have worked hard and are more excited than ever to perform.
The Disney musical is based on the fairy tale which tells the love story between Belle, an inventor’s daughter, and a cursed prince-turned-beast living in his castle.
When Belle’s father, Maurice, is imprisoned by the Beast, Belle offers him his freedom in exchange for her father’s.
“It’s a pretty intense role with three costume changes, the different songs and the whirlwind of emotions that my character goes through,” said Sophie Sooter, 17, who plays Belle and is Sandy Sooter’s daughter. . “Belle is a multi-dimensional character, which took a lot of study.”
Sophie Sooter’s stage experience is vast. At age 6, she joined the Riverside Performing Arts group, where she played Mollie in the musical “Annie.” About 10 years ago, she was part of Cathy Rigby’s Broadway tour of “Peter Pan.”
As for the upcoming show, Sophie Sooter was quick to praise her fellow performers, like Alexander Clark, who plays the cocky, chauvinistic hunter Gaston, who is determined to marry Belle.
Also, McKenzie Ward, who plays Mrs. Potts, the head housekeeper of the Beast, who was turned into a teapot by the Enchantress, who cast her curse on those who served in the castle.
Sophie Sooter said the onstage chemistry between her and the beast, played by 17-year-old student Ezekiel Moreno, will be felt by the audience.
Between scenes, Moreno chatted with cast and crew, used chopsticks to quickly eat his lunch, and spent time adjusting his long beast wig.
“With all the set and costume changes, one of the biggest challenges is getting everyone in sync,” Moreno said. “But we have an incredible team working like clockwork to make it happen.”
Moreno said the beast’s fight scene with Gaston is intense and his transformation into a prince is finely choreographed, with Moreno offstage delivering lines, while a stand-in plays the beast onstage.
“Sophie does an amazing job playing Belle,” Moreno said. “She really knows how to get into character and bring out the best in others.”
One of the stars of the dress rehearsal was Quinn Moore, who plays Lumiere, the butler of the castle, who has been transformed into a candelabra.
Wearing a candle-shaped helmet and similar pieces on both hands, Moore’s facial expressions and dance moves seemed to bring the cursed candelabra to life.
The school orchestra, led by conductor/manager Sean Sooter, will set the tone and mood for the musical.
Director Michael Heywood will oversee the production and Brittney Campos is heading up the choreography.
Performances are at 6 p.m. Friday, April 8 and 2 and 6 p.m. Saturday, April 9 at the Victor Valley College Performing Arts Center at 18422 Bear Valley Road in Victorville.
For tickets and more information, visit gofan.co/app/school/CA18817.
Daily Press reporter Rene Ray De La Cruz can be reached at 760-951-6227 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @DP_ReneDeLaCruz