It's a tale old as time, but St. Viator brings it to life: "Disney's Beauty and the Beast" will be the high school's 47th annual musical, with performances beginning Friday, Feb. 1.
Two casts of nearly 100 students each contribute to the production, but it's not enough.
"This show is grander than most," director Kate Costello said. "It took not only staff and students to produce this Disney extravaganza, but an army of parent volunteers and friends."
Costello chose an adaptation of the 1991 film, she says, because of the deep talent pool she knew she had to draw from. The theme was appealing, too.
"It's timeless and universal," Costello adds. "From the prologue on, we are reminded not to judge by appearances, 'for beauty is found within.' "
"Beauty and the Beast" incorporates a live orchestra, a full-scale set, vibrant costumes, and more than you'll remember from the movie. The extravagant number "Be Our Guest," for instance -- the film version lasts 3½ minutes. St. Viator's version runs nearly nine minutes, covering 40 pages of the score, and featuring the entire cast, who come out of the cupboards as enchanted objects to animate the song.
Senior Ryan Lavelle of Hoffman Estates and junior Ryan Wolfe of Arlington Heights share the role of Lumiere, who opens the song.
"We want it to be a showstopper," Wolfe says. "If we nail it, than everyone should walk away from it with a smile on their face."
Seniors Sara Fecko and Maddy Kelly, both of Arlington Heights, share the role of Belle. They are veterans of St. Viator's musicals, and accomplished vocalists, too; they've made the Illinois Music Educators Association District 7 choral festival the last two years.
"This is literally a dream come true for me," Fecko said. "I've wanted to be Belle ever since I was a little girl, and wore her costume for Halloween for three straight years."
Still, playing Belle drew on more of her acting talent than she originally thought, Fecko said.
"She changes so much during the course of the show," Fecko said. "She goes from wanting more adventure to being locked up in a castle and then falling in love. There's just a lot more characterization that goes into playing her."
The two seniors playing the Beast, Danny Rooney of Inverness and Ryan Sevilla of Mount Prospect, are active in St. Viator's choral programs. At a recent rehearsal, both drew cheers after they sang the climactic song at the end of the first act, "If I Can't Have Her."
"We've been working on it," said Rooney, who also qualified for the IMEA district choral festival this year. "It's really the first time you see the emotional side of the Beast."
Sevilla agrees, adding that he has enjoyed developing the many layers to the Beast that slowly peel away during the show.
"I'm enjoying playing a bit of a darker role," said Sevilla, who leads his own rock band out of school. "It gives you more leeway to be angry, passionate and emotional."
Balancing the seriousness of the Beast is the boorish and egotistic Gaston, played by junior Park Simonaitis of Inverness and senior David Vitale of Elk Grove Village.
"I'm still trying to balance the guy that everybody hates and still have fun with it," Simonaitis said of his first star turn.
Gaston's sidekick, LaFou, brings a pair of redheads to the role, in junior Matt Yoder of Buffalo Grove and sophomore Mike Scully of Arlington Heights.
"He's a good contrast to Gaston," Scully said. "He's his goofy sidekick, so you get all the laughs and just get to be the comedian of the show."
Yoder, a defensive lineman on St. Viator's football team, agrees.
"It's a lot of slapstick humor," Yoder says. "You have to be able to take a hit."