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‘Beauty and the Beast’ to show at FHS

Above: Fairmont High School students rehearse for their upcoming show, “Beauty and the Beast” inside the Performing Arts Center. Beast and Belle are played by Hudson Artz and Jaelyn Pierce. In the bottom left corner are Trey Tumbleson, Craig Gates II, Bekah Landsteiner and Grace Miller.

FAIRMONT– Fairmont High School invites you to “Be Our Guest” at its upcoming musical performances of “Beauty and the Beast.” The show kicks off next week with viewings Wednesday through Saturday.

Director Sara Gudahl said they wanted to go all out this year, especially after missing a performance last year. For the fall of 2020, Gudahl said they had a musical planned, both a small cast and large cast.

“We were 10 days from opening when the school went into full distance learning so both acts were cancelled. We were bummed. We never got to perform it,” Gudahl said.

Last year they were going to do “Alice in Wonderland” and Gudahl said they didn’t try it again this year because they had specifically cast the show based on voices and people they had in last year’s senior class.

“We felt like it was better to start fresh,” she said.

Gudahl shared how they came to decide on “Beauty and the Beast.”

“We wanted a big number to bring people back to the theater. We wanted something people knew and recognized.”

She said the school has done “Beauty and the Beast” before, in 2005, but she thought it was a good time to bring it back.

In watching the students rehearse, two big things are apparent right away: The costumes and the size of the cast.

“We rented from a company this year. Generally we outsource or make everything, but the enchanted objects are just so important so they needed to be good,” Gudahl said.

She said just 14 costumes were rented and the rest were outsourced. Rented costumes include the outfits for Lumiere, the candlestick; Cogsworth, the clock, Belle’s iconic yellow dress and Beast’s whole ensemble.

To make the most of the costume rentals, Gudahl said a photo booth will be set up in the commons area so people can have their picture taken with cast members after the show. Gudahl called it a meet and greet opportunity.

To say this year’s cast is big is in understatement. With 144 total participants, 97 on stage, 20 crew members and 27 pit members, Gudahl said almost 20 percent of the entire student body is participating.

“It is the most we’ve ever had. We’ve had more boys try out this year than ever before, too” Gudahl said.

She said the cast is a good mix of students in grades 7 through 12 and it’s also a decent mix of students trying out theater for the first time, as well as a number of veteran performers.

Gudahl said just a few years ago, Fairmont High School added a 7th and 8th grade play Typically the school has put on one musical each fall for grades 7 through 12 and a play in the spring for grads 9 through 12.

“We felt like the more we give our 7th and 8th graders, we keep them interested in wanting to be part of it. We want to light a fire for theater in the kids and keep them coming back,” she said.

Auditions were held the second week of school this year. Gudahl said it’s such a big show that they knew a head start was needed. The cast has been practicing four nights a week, typically from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., though she said they work around different work, church, sport and activity schedules.

Gudahl said she’s grateful for the 11 adults helping out with set design, lights, pit, vocals, choreography, makeup and costumes,

“The district has been so supportive of the program and helping us to grow it,” Gudahl said.

The show will have a soft opening on Tuesday, with a morning performance for elementary school students.

“Wednesday is our first official show. Doors open for senior citizens at noon and the show is at 12:30. It’s free to any senior in the community. I always tell the kids to invite their grandparents. We’d love to see them,” Gudahl said.

On Thursday evening, the 7:30 p.m. performance will be live-streamed. However, Gudahl said it won’t be recorded or available to watch any time other than that, as per Music Theater International rules. She said this will allow people who don’t feel comfortable watching it in person view it, as well as family members who may live out of town.

On Friday there’s also a 7:30 p.m. performance and Saturday’s is still up in the air, depending on how the Fairmont Football Team does today. If the team advances, there will be a matinee performance at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 21. If the team does not advance, there will be a 7:30 p.m. performance on Saturday, Nov. 20.

Tickets are $7 for adults, $5 for senior citizens and free for students. Annual passes are accepted. The musical features 12 full-length songs and a number of reprises. The total run time should be about two hours with a 15 minute intermission

Gudahl is excited to see the show come to life. She shared why she thinks that performing is something students should experience.

“There’s something about the arts. It’s so different from academics and athletics. The power of the words and music alone is life-changing, but then the collaboration that it takes to pull something like this off is something you won’t find anywhere else,” Gudahl said.

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