Be their guest

First Posted: 3/3/2015

CLARKS SUMMIT — As director of the Abington Heights High School musical production of “Beauty and the Beast,” Traci Thompson’s goal from the very beginning was to “wow people’s socks off.”

“I couldn’t help but choose this one (musical) because Belle is my dream role. I got to choose the musical. If I put on a show I want it to be a miniature Broadway (performance),” said Thompson.

The musical will open this weekend with performances 7 p.m. Friday, March 6 and Saturday, March 7.

Thompson, a 2013 graduate of Baptist Bible College and BBC admissions counselor, said the musical is based on Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” film.

“(The musical) is different,” she said. “I’ve loved the story since I was little.

“It’s the stage version, but it’s still Disney and they’ve added songs, so you’ll see more characters developed. You’re going to have a chance to see these characters’ hearts and thoughts and who they are…They’re really relatable and they’re kind of stock characters.”

Thompson described the family-oriented performance as “how the power of love can heal a person.”

“It’s amazing when someone loves you; it gives you freedom and confidence. That’s what the story is all about,” she said. “So many people are searching for love. This story is attractive to every person because whether you’re the one starving for adventure or romance, or you’re the one who doesn’t think you deserve it, you’re going to relate to it.”

The characters, Thompson said, are exaggerated forms of self and the script is full of moments of comedy, but also moments of love and brokenness.

“It’s very entertaining and high energy,” she added.

The cast includes more than 40 actors and leading roles are played by students Kate Glidewell as Belle and Nick Beckish as Beast. Students have rehearsed from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. every day (excluding snow days) since the beginning of January in preparation for opening night.

“(Abington Heights High School choral director) Dr. (Susan) Kelly and I brainstormed for a while. We went back and forth. My gut kept coming back to this (musical) because when I met the kids and listened to them and watched their personalities, I thought I can cast the show with these kids. There’s no doubt in my mind,” Thompson said.

Key members of the musical production include musical accompaniment by Kelly on keyboard and Dr. Alan Baker, piano, Sammi Shea, choreographer, Ryan Buchanan, executive producer, Hannah Merkh, coordinator of student technical crew, and a dance ensemble and “Enchanted Ensemble.”

Glidewell said being part of this cast was “truly a chance of a lifetime.”

“Like any little girl, I always dreamed of being a princess,” she said. “I was always able to relate to Belle, so being able to play her is a truly incredible experience.”

Thompson said experiencing the play is more than just a night out for the family —it has the potential to inspire.

“It’s a family play and I think this is the perfect night to take your kids out with you and expose them to art and theater,” she said. “This is something that can inspire your own kids – their creativity and their imagination…”

Tickets prices are $8 for adults and $5 for students and will be available at the door.

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