Are you sure this is high school theater?

Melissa Stagnaro

I had to ask myself that question last night as I sat in the darkened auditorium at Greene High School watching a dress rehearsal for the school’s spring musical, Beauty and the Beast.

I’m no novice to high school theatrical productions. While I’ve never starred in one of these shows, trust me when I tell you that I’ve attended more than my fair share. My mother, a true lover of musical theater, has been dragging me to productions up and down the Chenango Valley for much of my life. I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve seen My Fair Lady, Fiddler on the Roof, South Pacific (my personal fav) and the host of other shows which typically make the rounds on the high school stage.

While my years at Manhattan College afforded me the opportunity to take in a host of college productions and even a few Broadway and off-Broadway shows, local high school theater will always have a special place in my heart. And not just because it’s become something of a mother/daughter tradition.

No, it’s watching students spread their wings on stage that gets me every time. While the performances might not be perfectly polished, they always have heart. And because you expect a little of the good, the bad and the ugly, there is always the chance that you’ll have those expectations totally blown out of the water.

That was me last night: Blown away.

It was just an early dress rehearsal, mind you. (The curtain doesn’t officially rise until Friday night.) There were the usual snags with sound, lighting, missing props and even a little wet paint. But while it may have been a little rough around the edges, it was phenomenal none the less.

The set was nothing short of perfection; the costumes truly awe-inspiring. I’m not sure which was my favorite: Cogsworth (Tim Sininger), Lumiere (Patrick Daniels), Wardrobe (Kortney Miranda), Mrs. Potts (Rachel Paukett) or the Beast himself (Ryan Schultz). And I absolutely loved the nine dancing Cupcakes from the “Be our guest” number. They would have done the Broadway production proud.

But of course, it wasn’t the costumes, but the students wearing them that truly make the show. The clear, dulcet voice of Kasey Heisler as Belle, George Flanagan’s thoroughly chauvinistic Gaston and the portrayal of the Beast’s complex character by Ryan Schultz will definitely wow audiences this weekend, as will the rest of the talented cast.

How good are they? Let’s put it this way, at one point during the Beast’s final number in the first act, I completely forgot I was sitting in on a dress rehearsal in a high school auditorium. It was that moving.

Greene High School Footlight’s production of Beauty and the Beast is definitely something local theater lovers won’t want to miss. I know I’ll be queueing up to buy tickets this weekend myself, so that I can see the show in its full glory.

I’ll be getting two, of course. One for me, and one for my mom.