It's about 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, and in the Hillsborough High School auditorium, the pit band for the school's upcoming production of "Disney's Beauty and the Beast" is warming up, horns run through scales, violins play arpeggios.
Overhead, students climb on the catwalks to the stage lights, and costumed players scurry back and forth between the theater classroom and backstage. Crew members shift stage sets into place, and the curtain rises for a full dress rehearsal ahead of Thursday's first show, a special matinee for seniors (regular audiences won't have a chance to see the show until Friday).
The band plays the overture and Alex Ferrao steps out of a set piece, as narrator Alex Luckenbaugh gives the setup. A moment later, and the stage is alive with actors—townspeople engaged in activity.
Belle—Sandy Buz—steps onto the stage and soon, she's singing her first song, and the show is in full swing.
Occasionally, Director Bernard Solomon or Musical Director Christine Micu stop the action, double checking a stage cue or timing.
But the rehearsal continues soon, and moments later, the interruption forgotten.
Millions have enjoyed the show, with it's romantic theme, clever characters and catchy songs, and the school's production will make knowing audiences smile. The show is skillfully carried by Buz, Alex Minter (as the beast) and Mike Di Pietro, but really sparkles when the stage is filled for big dance and production numbers.
Cleverly adapted by producer-director (and about a dozen other roles) Bernard Solomon, it may also be one of the most technically-challenging productions the school has ever tried.
But the cast and crew are up to the task—Buz's full voiced solos give heft while Di Pietro's spot-on comedic timing balance with levity.
Perhaps most surprising are the dance numbers, big, full-stage productions expertly choreographed and performed on a less-than-ideal stage.
Other members of the cast include Nihal Honwad, Allie Gan, Amanda Casto, Greg Johnston, Kevin Vega, Michelle Ciccotelli, Becky Gumpel, Aditi Kumar, Amanda Casto, Liam Angello, Evan Centofanti, Rachel Begleiter, Joey Grimes, Zach Rich, Deanne Moore, Tyler DeLeo, Kevin Bizzoco, Chris Blum, Christina Buz, Dante Colon, Tyler DeLeo, Connor McKenna, Emily DeMouth, Alyssa Fairweather, Kaitlin Irwin, Kate Mochnacz, Deanna Moore, Emily Newton, Michael Pasciuta, Kiara Ryan, Tori Schubert, Mike Senoo, Matt Sisti, Henry Toke, Sarah Turck and Becky Wendover.
The pit band is:
- Violin: Sarah Munch*, Steve Mejias, Joe Gall*, Elisabeth Smith
- Viola: Courtney Bennett
- Cello: Elizabeth Heitmann
- Bass: Ian McCarthy, Paul Ma
- Flute: Alexandra Block*, Marguerite Davis, Jessica Richter
- Piccolo: Alexandra Block*, Jordynne Turpie
- Clarinet/Alto Saxophone: Erik Johnson
- Alto Saxophone/Tenor Saxophone: Jordyn Coury
- Bassoon: Shauna Morrisey
- Trumpet: Thomas Coates*, Dustin Ciano, Erica Daugherty
- French Horn: Victoria Kuntz, Valentine Kuntz*
- Trombone: Matthew Blauvelt, Trevor MacKinnon
- Percussion: Jasmine Lee, Vanessa Piwtoratsky
- Drum Set: Chris Aleo*
- Keyboard 1: Justin Tran
- Keyboard 2: Samantha Coviello
- Keyboard 3: Jessica Conlon
(* indicates Hillsborough teacher or alum.)
The crew includes Associate Producer and Production Stage Manager Amanda McHugh, Assistant Directors Rory Baker and Dana Cavagnaro, Assistant Music Directors Rachel Beglieter, Alexander Minter and Shawna Morrisey, Stage Managers Mike DiLorenzo and Shannon Olsen, Dance Captains Rebecca Gumpel and Emily Newton, Erin O’Brien (lighting design), Allie Pollan-Clarke (assistant lighting design), Nicholas Merano (technical direction), Caitlin Beards (costumes), Scenic Artist Jane Staats, and Carol Kravette, who is coordinating the ticket desk and lobby arrangments.
Tickets are available online at the theater club's reservation page on HHS Theatre's website.