Beauty and the Beast | Looking Back and Looking Ahead
The announcement that MBU would be producing Disney’s Beauty and the Beast in April 2020 was met with great enthusiasm. The semester beforehand, while potential cast members prepared their audition songs and area theatre-goers marked their calendars, Director Christina Miller assembled her production team and created the framework necessary for such a challenging undertaking. The creative juices began flowing for set designer—Isaiah Oetken, costume designer—Kelley Maxfield, and choreographer—Amanda Ly Warren. Music Director, Carol Senn Ruffin and Conductor, Dr. Rick Townsend studied the score and recruited players for the pit orchestra.
Turnout for auditions was encouraging and robust. As each auditioner unveiled their inner-Beauty or inner-Beast, the panel was awed by the talent of the Maranatha student body and prayed for wisdom in choosing the right cast. After call-backs, the much-anticipated cast list was released on January 31st.
Three days later, the excitement and anticipation were palpable as the cast of Beauty and the Beast gathered for the first time.
Mrs. Miller told them the cast verse was Romans 12: 2 and the production theme was “transformation”, and not just in the context of the script. Her desire was for each cast member to become more Christ-like throughout the production process. To underscore that sentiment Mrs. Ruffin composed a song titled “Transformed by the Lord” which the cast regularly sang during warmups.
A FAIRYTALE IN THE MAKING
The following weeks were filled with learning the music, memorizing lines, blocking scenes, choreographing songs, gathering props, sewing costumes, orchestra rehearsals, and set construction.
The arduous work which occurred each rehearsal was offset by just the right amount of shenanigans to keep everyone sane.
Through it all, the cast was not only being transformed into fairytale characters, but they were becoming like family and naturally ministering to one another as the Lord intended.
Saturday, March 14th was epic for the cast and crew. That was the day rehearsals moved from Alumni Hall to the gym stage. How thrilling to navigate freely on the frame of the set, to test some of the “enchanted” costumes, and to fill the space with their collective energy!
Five weeks remained until opening night.
Understandably, nothing was finished, but everything was on schedule. The day was so extraordinary, the cast and crew decided to gather around the street sign for a picture.
A DISAPPOINTING END
But, oh what a difference a weekend makes when there’s a pandemic brewing! The following Monday, Mrs. Miller sent an ominous e-mail for the entire cast and crew to come to Alumni Hall at 7:00 that night.
It was her less-than-enviable position to break the news that Beauty and the Beast had been canceled. She read aloud tributes she had written to each individual member of the team, the cast sang one final rendition of the show finale, and they prayed together. There were lots of hugs, tears, and selfies with their new best friends. No one wanted to exit Alumni Hall as if doing so would end the magic.
Cast member Kathryn Donnelly summed things up well when she posted, “On Saturday, we were practicing on the stage for the first time, and everything felt so real. Tonight we found out the rest of the semester would be finished online, and the play would be canceled. I won’t lie and say my heart isn’t breaking, but I’m also overwhelmed with gratitude…to those in charge of the play for giving me a chance…to the cast for welcoming me with open arms…and to God, for giving me this opportunity. He’s worked to remind me of the theme of transformation, that we are renewed through Christ and transformed from beasts into royalty, into His children.”
In the weeks that followed, grieving took on numerous forms.
Sarah Ring drank tea and listened to the B&B soundtrack. Assistant Director Leanna Oetken decorated her hearth with antlers like Gaston. Abby Burt performed her one-woman B&B back home in quarantine. Student Director, Abby Banks sent Mrs. Miller flowers on what would’ve been opening night, and Denver Baughman created a nostalgic tribute video.
A SECOND CHANCE
Thankfully, Maranatha’s Beauty and the Beast saga does not end on a minor chord. On April 21, Director Christina Miller e-mailed the following:
I have the happy honor of letting you know that the Administration has approved the presentation of Beauty and the Beast for this fall, and we have secured permission from the publishing company. Lord willing, performance dates will be:
- Tuesday, November 10th, 7:00 p.m.
- Thursday, November 12th, 7:00 p.m.
- Friday, November 13th, 10:00 a.m.
- Friday, November 13th, 7:00 p.m.
- Saturday, November 14th, 2:00 p.m.
- Saturday, November 14th, 7:00 p.m.
Nationwide, very few “COVID cancelations” will be granted a redo. That fact is not lost on the MBU team producing Beauty and the Beast this coming November. They hope YOU can be there to experience fairytale transformation firsthand!