Beauty and the Beast
Time: August 17, 2005Place: Neighborhood Theatre GroupRole: GastonDirector: Faith Blevins
Beauty and the Beast (Belle et le bête)
Qu’est-ce que c’est?
One year prior, it all began. I first came out to Neighborhood Community Theatre to see a show that a friend was in. The show was called The Music Man (no, it’s not new). I remember sitting outdoors and thinking that I would really enjoy the ambiance much more if I wasn’t so darn cold and my derriere not been aching from the lack of any cushioning. Nevertheless, it was a nice way to take in a show. After the performance, someone asked if I would be interested in auditioning for their following summer show. “Well, that all depends on the show,” I returned. Many months later, I found out the name of the show—Beauty and the Beast. Okay, I was interested.
One of biggest draws of that show wasn’t what it was, but moreover, what it wasn’t. It wasn’t The Sound of Music. It wasn’t another West Side Story. It wasn’t The King and I. Now those are great shows, and yadda yadda (Go ahead and insert the standard “classics” boilerplate stuff here). Be that as it may, I do grow weary of the same show again and again (and again). Okay yes, there are still some roles I wouldn’t mind playing, but I mainly feel empathy for any family and friends who have to repeatedly watch Tony get shot while searching for Maria. It never changes. Tony dies. Here’s some Kleenex, now pass the popcorn, please [yes, alliteration].
Auditions and Casting
Thus, I had a great interest in Beauty and the Beast. The caveat is that the main role I was looking to audition for was Gaston. In the cartoon version, Gaston is constructed by only the limitations of an artist’s imagination. So, he ended up being somewhat exaggerated. In Disney’s version, he looks to be about 6’6. And I…well, am not.
Still, there’s a lot to be said for weight training and tall shoes. I had nothing to lose by auditioning. Or did I?
It’s all about tradeoffs. I can only do one show at a time. Perhaps others can beat the stiff unbending laws of time and space, but I haven’t found a way. I needed to choose which summer show to do—and there were several choices. First up was 42nd Street. The draw was that I hadn’t done a show at ACLO before, and I also hadn’t played a certain role. However, the time and date came and went. I forwent auditions. Next up was OKLAHOMA! This decision was a little easier. I had done the show twice already and the previous time was a really wonderful production. I hated to mess with success. But again, each missed audition meant putting all my eggs into a Beast basket. If I wasn’t cast, I could have been spending my summer watching Nick at Nite reruns. 42nd Street wasn’t dead yet either (is it ever?). The theatre staff emailed and said they still needed an actor for a certain role, and it was a role I had wanted to play. Thus, I agreed to meet for an audition, but the schedule never worked out for the audition date. So shortly after, they went and cast another. All that was left was Wizard of Oz. Yeah, it would be the third time for me, but I auditioned. No word back from them.
Finally came the Beast auditions. I threw together an altered version of “On the Streets Where You Live” and drove out to Castro Valley. Of the 80 or so bodies there, I knew only two or three. Things went well and I was soon driving home again.
Doing the Show
Days later, I was called back for Gaston. Good stuff. I happily returned. Due to a conflict, I had to arrive late, but I managed to get there in time to sing and read for the role. Dancing was not required. Wahoo! I like auditions like that. As you may have guessed, I was cast (why else would I write all this?) I would be playing Gaston.
We first met in the general theatre auditorium (sanctuary), but the show would take place outside. I knew scarcely a sole during the first few weeks, but that would soon change.
The rehearsing was indoors at first, and that was pretty cool in itself. The auditorium is huge there and would make an excellent place to perform. But we were doing the summer show and it takes place outdoors. So as the sets were built, we gradually moved outside.
Sets and Costumes
The sets grew in time and began to look rather impressive. If anything, Beast and Oz (DLOC) rank with me as the best sets I’ve ever worked with. I can’t stress enough how much more fun a show can be when the sets are great.
The ending fight would be done about 25 feet up in the air, and while I don’t have a fear of heights, I’m not too keen on falling any great distances. However, they made it safe. One big change was the last few rehearsals, when the lights were added. The main lights went down as we switched to spotlights. All of the sudden, it was much harder to see where we were standing. The spotlights came from the side and a one-foot base wall blocked the lower area from receiving light. When one is 25 feet up in the air, it’s nice to see the ground.
I don’t mind volunteering to help build sets, however, they seemed to have that covered, so I was never asked to come help build. If I was down there on a Saturday morning, it was for rehearsing only. That was nice, but I’m fine either way.
The cast bonded nicely and I met some great people. With a cast of 70, it’s easy to find people to chat with and get to know. Be that as it may, it took me a long time to really get down names. I have trouble in a cast of 30, but with 70 new faces to learn. Well, yeah.
At karate, I had doubled my workout lessons to twice a week and I guess it helped. Fortunately, Gaston only flexes a few times so it wasn’t that bad. The rest of my time I spent memorizing the songs and lines. My car time was dedicated to repeating lyrics over and over. I think it’ paid off since I never really forgot any lines or lyrics. I may have forgotten a few dance steps on occasion. I can never rally tell.
I enjoyed my costume and wig. The costume fit well and allowed me to move around adequately. I did have some rather odd red tights pants, but I suppose it fit the time period. Remembering what to wear and when wasn’t easy and I only had a couple changes. I got that right most of the time. The wig started off great. But wigs just don’t get along with me after a short time. Soon, it began getting larger and more unraveled. The darn thing just seemed to be growing. Keeping it on wasn’t a problem after one rehearsal when it fell off during a flip. I then started securing it with dozens of bobby pins and double stick tape. There was no way it would be falling off again.
Our dressing room was decent. I heard the girls had much more food and goodies in their place. I guess we just never brought that much. Getting ready each night took about 40 minutes. The wig and makeup took the most time. Plus, we had a 20-minute prayer time beforehand. Yeah, you had to arrive pretty early if you wanted to be ready by curtain.
Not many things veered away from the original game plan. I guess a few actors got hurt here and there during rough fights scenes between the wolves and beast. Once, my gun wasn’t in place before I went on. Thus, I went on without it. It wasn’t a huge problem, but still, I wasn’t thrilled about that. After all, I had just shot a bird.
My shoulder was sore early on from the two-girl lift (brought over from Oklahoma!). But I suppose I adapted to it. Also, in the previous show, they were tiny girls. In this show, they weren’t big, but normal sized. And it’s not easy for one normal (work with me here) guy to lift two normal girls. More weight lifting I guess.
I don’t think any were done—at least not to my recollection. That’s fine with me. The audiences gave great feedback and that’s all that truly maters. Some people were kind enough to say some really nice things about our production and that was great to hear.
I remember how nice it was to be so close to the audience. We were a mere couple feet away at times.
One favorite memory was lying on the roof and listening to the rest of the show. Up there, I could hear the scene taking place while a laid back and watched the stars, along with an occasional jet plane fly over. At times, I would climb near the edge and see what I could see without getting seen by the audience.
I remember one night (maybe the final one) of taping parts of the show at intermission. Steph and I taped some of the excitement of people generally just having a great time fooling around and talking. It’s important to remember such things since it’s easy to get caught up in evaluating whether or not to do shows based solely on the role itself. Yeah, certainly the role is a big factor, but shows can also be a lot of fun simply because the people are fun and get along well. Backstage, you could see all that taking place.
We also also had plenty of cookies. Nice!
Overall, Beast ranks up there with my top favorites. It was my only outdoor show to date. I loved being part of such a huge cast and everyone came across as very friendly and supportive. Small differences may have occurred between some cast members I suppose, but I never really heard much about that.
Looking back, I don’t think I would have done anything differently. Well, I guess more photos wouldn’t have hurt, but I was pretty occupied during the show. It was a little funny how the Beast and Gaston are the primary protagonist and antagonist of the show, yet we never interacted directly.
It certainly was a remarkable summer to remember.