Behind the Scenes: Beauty and the Beast Jr.

The Canyon Vista Theatre and Choir presented the production “Beauty and the Beast Jr.” in a four-show run in the Canyon Vista Cafeteria. The production was directed by Mr. Jacob Vigil, Mr. Raul Vara, and Mrs. Jennifer Gonzalez.

The play was a massive success; both Feb. 17 on Friday night and Feb. 18 at 7 p.m. on Saturday night sold out. There were over 400 seats put out. The casting crew has been working on this production since November. They first started off with table work, where actors go over their lines with the directors and focus on the intention. They then moved to music work, where the cast worked on the music.

“The process goes like this: So we always start with table work, we sit down and we read the story. And we talk about characters, we talk about motivations, we talk about, like, when you’re saying this line, what you really mean is this emotion.” Mr. Jacob Vigil, one of the directors of the production said. “We sit in a circle and we write down things in our script. And, so that’s always the first thing. Table work is what it’s called. Then we go on to music work where Mr. Vara does nothing but singing with them, and during that time Mrs. Gonzalez and I, we talk about costumes, we sketch, we draw, we plan. And then hopefully, we’re done in 2 weeks… Then we start putting it all on its feet and we do that until the show.”

Beauty and the Beast Jr. was a stunning performance, and a part of this play that deviated from the norm was that two different people played the principal role, Belle. Maddy Ziegler (8) played Belle on Thursday and Friday night, while Anna Bruce (8) played Belle on Saturday afternoon and night.

“When it came down to the character Belle, we had it down to about 4-5 girls, and of them, we brought it down to the two… and we were like, “There’s no way we can choose. There’s just no way.” They each could do that character the best, and so, why even try? Why and try [to choose]? ‘Cause, it’s like, if we pick one person, this person is gonna go over here and they deserve better, but if we pick this person, this person’s gonna go over here and they deserve better too.” Mr. Vigil said. “Whenever it comes to directing a show, I always look at, well, can I trust this person? Have I trusted them in the past? Yes, I have trusted them in the past. Great! Did they do the job to the best of their abilities? Yes, they did. Would I trust them this time? I would. Okay! That’s the hard part of casting a show.”

Mr. Vigil later mentioned a sisterly bond between the two actresses for Belle, who had already known each other previously. Going through a role as heavy as Belle does require support, and having two actresses for that would be more beneficial than one.

“The pros would be, you got to have a wonderful experience with someone, and thankfully she was one of my friends… so that was really fun.” Maddy, the Thursday and Friday night actress for Belle said. “I think a con would’ve been, it was twice as sad when it ended. Because it’s like, “oh, now I can’t do this with my friend anymore and my friend can’t do this either, you know? It was, like, double of everything.”

Anna Bruce, the Belle actress for Saturday afternoon and evening, also seems to echo these sentiments. She mentions Maddy Ziegler helping with character building, and how they guided each other throughout the arduous process.

“Before the show actually, Maddy did this thing, and she asked me these questions, like “What’s your favorite book?”, “Do you like Gaston?”, stuff like that… and that kinda helped me get into character.” Bruce said. “Maddy was just so encouraging and I really don’t think I could’ve gotten through it without her. I think that definitely, like, if you’re absent, the other person is there and so it’s more flexible.

Another impactful role was the role of Lumiere, a candelabra, played by Jay Ziegler (8). During the play, Jay was required to speak in a French accent for his role and impressed many people with his proficient accent.

“Most of the time it was hard because there was [sic] a lot of words that, like, you can’t say that in French! Like, it’s so hard.” Jay said. “I just faked it till I make [sic] it.”

Another difficulty in this production was the freeze that occurred where we lost one week of school. The week that happened was one of the weeks leading up to the production, and therefore was a crucial rehearsal time that was taken away from them.

“There’s so much that I was so proud of even though we lost a week of rehearsal – Monday through Thursday, and then the Saturday rehearsal because of the freeze. The cast and the crew pulled it together and made magic… I’m so proud of them.” Mr. Vigil said. “Only thing it took away from us was time. It did not stop these actors. They came in the following week and they had motivation, they had drive, they were like “This is not gonna stop us, we’re still gonna put on a killer show.” and so they did!”

Due to the crucial time lost, there were many challenges that occurred during pre-production. These challenges affected everyone – the cast members, crew members, and directors. One notable challenge was the character Belle’s iconic yellow dress, featured in both the animated version of Beauty and the Beast (1991) and the live-action Beauty and the Beast (2017).

“We did not get our yellow dress until the day of the show. We had to, like, practice changing during first period and advisory.” Bruce said. “So that was a little stressful. And then, the whole week of the freeze was a little stressful too. There was a lot of important rehearsal that could’ve been going on that we lost.”

These are the parts of production that the audience ends up seeing directly. However, there is also another part of production that’s the backbone of the show: the crew. Canyon Vista Theatre’s crew members are dedicated. They assist with many jobs, from creating scenery and props to handling the soundboard and light board.

“I always tell everyone when we’re doing theater, it’s not just acting. Acting is one job of all the jobs. If you see one actor on stage, there’s like, five people that you might not see doing their job or already have done their job to get that person up on stage.” Mr. Vigil said. “I love my technicians. They have the hardest jobs. Lighting, moving the sets around…  Dylan Scales, who was our lightboard operator, who’s also the production manager, he’s also my go-to guy for stage managing. He actually learned to program the lightboard, which is more than I’ve ever done. Another person is Lucas, Lucas Janssen. He stepped up and learned that soundboard. And there’s no way I could’ve done that! He took it and he ran with it. Those two I did not thank enough, but I have plans to thank them.”

In theatre, crew members are not recognized or given as much credit as the actors due to the fact that while the work they do is evident, it is not often recognized immediately.

“I think the crew is kind of the magnifying force… like, it takes everybody who is part of the production and puts the show on the stage.” Saanvi Mittal (8), a member of the crew said. “So because of what the crew did, everybody was able to see it as well as hear it. So we’re kind of the visual representation that helps bring everything together.”

Just as there are many different acting roles, like principal, supporting, and more, there are many different roles in crew. The person who organizes and delegates tasks to all these roles is the stage manager. In this production, Aiden Pilon (7) was the stage manager.

“Tech is a big part, and I feel like we [crew] don’t get enough credit for what we do because I think we’re just as important as the actors, in a way. If we don’t have them [cast], the show doesn’t go on, and if they don’t have us, the show doesn’t go on.” Pilon said.

While there are varying perspectives on the cast and crew members’ experience of the show, they can all agree on one thing: this show was magical.

“I would say, if you got a chance to see it, you witnessed magic. From principal character down to the stage technician, anyone who missed out on this production – it’s like you missed out big time.” Mr. Vigil said. “It was like something I’ve never seen on this stage. I don’t think I could do this anywhere but here because the amount of talent here is amazing.”

Stay tuned for a video on Canyon Echoes TV of cast and crew members from this production mimicking Lumiere’s iconic French accent!