A tale as old as time... | Central Coast Grammar School

A tale as old as time...

The much-loved classic Beauty and the Beast sprung to life on the stage and was met with high acclaim from all who saw it and loved it.

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Belle's admirer Gaston his sidekick Lefou

Bringing a production from the script to the stage is no mean feat. It takes an incredible amount of collaborative and cooperative work between students and teachers and the behind-the-scenes effort is enormous.

What is beautifully presented on the stage starts all the way back in January when the very first ideas of what the show might be are carefully considered by the creative team. “I have so many people ask how we decide what to do!” said Lee Fleming, Director of Performing Arts. “When we’re making decisions about what to stage we do so based on what is achievable and what can be delivered to our high standards.”

This year the creative team used a rather unconventional selection process; hosting blind auditions so that students who auditioned had no idea what they were auditioning for. “I had not yet made a decision about what we would produce, and I wanted the show to ‘fit’ the students who were auditioning,” said Lee. “Students were asked to sing, act and/or dance and based on the strength of the auditionees, it was clear that Beauty and the Beast was the best choice to showcase the depth of student talent and cater to a large number of middle school students who auditioned for the ensemble.”

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Jake Vernon-Elliot as Cogsworth and Kasey Barnes as Belle

Staging a school production is a massive project. All in all, there are about 125 students and 15 staff involved in the process from beginning to end. There’s so much happening behind the scenes that the audience will never see - from gaining performance rights, casting, set and costume design and construction, makeup design, orchestra selection and of course the gruelling process of rehearsals and character development.

Nobody understands this process more than Year 11 student, Aaron Carey who spent well over 60 rehearsal hours transitioning from quiet CCGS student to the angry, lonely Beast.

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Aaron Carey (Year 11) as The Beast

“The Beast is an iconic Disney character, so I wanted to make sure I did him justice. I spent a lot of time researching the role in other productions to see where I could try something new and different. I experimented with different voices and accents, and had to put in lots of work in front of a mirror to practice the poor Beast’s many angry outbursts, something which I’m not used to!”

For Aaron, school productions represent an opportunity to give something back to the school community through doing the things he loves, music and acting. “Productions always mean lots of laughs, theatrical antics and a wonderful way to meet new people and make new friends,” said Aaron. “The highlight of Beauty and the Beast was the fantastic opportunity to work with so many talented, like-minded students who were passionate to create a beautiful show. I connected with many people I had not even met before, forming strong new friendships through the entire creative process.”

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Kai Williamson as Chip and Maddy Alexander as Mrs Potts

For the creative team driving the show, staging a beloved family favourite also came with some nerves. “I was excited about Beauty and the Beast, but I also knew it would be arduous work to bring it to life in the manner it deserved,” said Lee.

The songs are much-loved and revered through generations and I consider Be Our Guest one of the finest songs in musical theatre. From the very first rehearsal, I told the whole cast that we had to do it justice - Lee Fleming.

And do it justice they did. Be our Guest is a 7-minute long song with many changes in mood, pace, and energy, all topped off with extravagance. Almost the entire cast was involved in this number, and the energy from the stage was felt in the very back rows of the theatre.

“To see the incredible reaction to Be our Guest from the audience each night was astounding,” said Lee. “The round of applause after this particular number on the final night went on for over 60 seconds and had some people standing mid-show! Truly a testament to every single person involved.”

CCGS productions are always hugely successful and this year, Beauty and the Beast, lifted the bar even higher. “We have a great team of staff who bring an impressive level of professionalism and passion for the arts to our productions,” said Lee. “This year our incredibly talented students were fully committed and very well prepared for the run of shows, and this rippled through the whole cast. Young ensemble members were watching and learning from our senior students and it inspired them to step up. Our fantastic orchestra and set/wardrobe/makeup team brought the goods to make Beauty and the Beast a CCGS production to remember.

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Dancers created the petals of the rose

"I've already had people asking asking what we're doing next year," said Lee. "For now you'll just have to watch this space!"