Mount Sentinel’s Beauty and the Beast: “Splendour. Magic. Enchantment. Killer Orchestra.”

Disney’s Beauty and the Beast will arrive on the Capitol Theatre stage on June 2  for three nights, created by 37 local student actors and singers along with a professional-level 20-piece orchestra.

Life-Size Forks And Knives

“It is magical show, it is not about realism,” says co-director Heather Shippit. “The cast members have to be enchanted kitchen objects, and that is a massive undertaking for costumes. They are forks, knives, sugar bowls, and they are life-size.”

“Yeah, the costumes are probably the biggest challenge,” says music director Rick Lingard.  “Our costume team is just working their tails off and they are amazing, the costumes will be very visually beautiful.”

“You need the costumes to support the story,” says Heather.  “The big word in Beauty and the Beast is magic, it is about enchantment. One of the costumes is 8 feet by 6 feet and it is a giant beautiful dresser that is sequined and coloured with drawers that open, and it is quite complicated.”

Jessica Laramee plays Belle, who falls in love with the Beast and breaks the spell

Drama teacher Heather Shippit and music teacher Rick Lingard have been mentoring students at Mount Sentinel School, and delighting local audiences, for many years. Their current production of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast is their most ambitious project since West Side Story, which they and their students presented at the Capitol Theatre three years ago.

A Beast Who Is Really A Prince

“Beauty and the Beast is about a young girl from a small town who has big dreams and hopes,” says Heather. “She finds herself in an enchanted castle with enchanted objects and held prisoner by a beast who is really a prince but she doesn’t know it. He has had a spell cast on him because he was selfish. He has to learn to love someone and be loved in return in order for the spell to be broken, and he finds Belle and they fall in love and she is the one who breaks the spell.”

“It takes a while though,” says Rick, “because he is a very, very angry beast and he has to learn some anger management tactics.”

The Challenges of Vulnerability and Beastliness

Seventeen-year-old Mount Sentinel student Jessica Laramee plays Belle. She says the biggest challenge is “a few scenes where I have got to really let go and vulnerable. Belle is a very free person, she does not like to keep emotions in. Playing the role, it is sometimes difficult to go there and make it look real.”

But Jessica is up to the challenge. She’s been active in theatre and music, under the tutelage of Rick and Heather, from a young age.

Heather Shippit is co-director of Beauty and the Beast with Patti Humphries

That’s also true of Brian McIntyre, 18, who plays the Beast. He says the biggest challenge for him is “trying to get into the beast-like state, the big loud roaring voice.”

Brian says he enjoys the fact that the Beast journeys through many different phases in his transformation. “It brings out different personalities in him, like I might be screaming mad, and then be in love, and then be nervous and shy.”

Both Jessica and Brian agree that the costumes are one of the striking parts of this production. “The dresses,” says Jessica, “I am very excited about the hoop skirts, just huge dresses, I have a huge gold dress for the dance, so I am really excited about that.”

Students’ Passion for Theatre

“These two kids are really hard workers,” says Rick. “Jess for example has come to orchestra rehearsals just to sing and be there. Brian, his voice has gone from here to here, he has learned so much, trying so hard. There is never a moment where they are not really focussed and really engaged.”

Music Director Rick Lingard pictured in one of his other identities as saxophonist-about-town

“I love going to rehearsals,” says Jessica, “spending three hours every day with 50 people, working toward one goal, putting on an amazing show and then inspiring other people through theatre. It makes me really happy, I am really passionate about theatre.”

Singing With a Live Orchestra

The two students are excited about the opportunity to sing with a live orchestra. “Oh man, it is mind-blowing,” says Jessica, “singing with a 20- piece orchestra with all of that organic sound, it blows your mind, and a whole chorus behind you.”

Brian explained that until a few days ago they had been rehearsing to a computer program, but when the orchestra arrived for their first rehearsal together, “we all got really excited and starting to really show our true colours.”

The orchestra is a group of seasoned musicians pulled together and directed by Rick Lingard.

“Half my orchestra is from Symphony of the Kootenays. I have three French horns which is amazing, they sound like the heavens.  I have an ex-Vancouver Symphony player and a couple of family teams from the area. Some really great players.

“The first time the kids sang with the real orchestra— the buzz, the excitement! They sang with so much heart and passion, I mean how often do you get to sing with an orchestra, in your life? The kids just went, Oh my gosh this is amazing, so to me that was a cool turning point.”

Guys Dressed as Gold Cutlery in Shiny Tights

Heather and Rick say there are lots of students in this production operating outside their comfort zones, which is fertile ground for learning.

“Some of them have really surprised themselves,” says Heather.  They have learned to sing instead of going, oh I can’t sing. They are learning to sing and learning choreography and taking chances, I mean we have some guys dressed as gold cutlery in shiny tights out there singing and dancing their hearts out and it’s all really beautiful.”

“That is one of the things I love about youth theatre,’ she says. “The joy of watching the kids grow and just being so vulnerable on stage. I get goosebumps every single time.”

The cast is multi-age (grades 7 to 12)  is not all from Mount Sentinel. There are students from other schools in the area, creating a cross-school collaboration that happens rarely. “It creates new friends and new networks,” says Heather.

What’s The Main Audience Attraction Of This Production?

Heather:  “The magical transformations at the end and the relationships inside the story are all really beautiful so there is a lot to appeal to a wide audience. If you are a 5-year-old child and you are relating to Chip the Teacup and he just wants to be a boy again, or Belle who is a teenager in a small town who is different and just wants to be accepted, I think there is so much to see. The music is beautiful and enchanting and will make you want to sing it all the time.”

Rick: “Splendour. Magic. Enchantment. Colour. Movement. Killer orchestra.”

Ask the directors or the actors a question about Beauty and the Beast in the comment section below. They’ll answer!


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