Behind the scenes of Beauty and the Beast

IN REHEARSAL: Musical Theatre Gisborne’s Beauty and the Beast director John Drummond (right) details a scene that involves actor Tahi Paenga (left) who plays the beast, Belle (Amelia Williams) Belle’s father (Walter Walsh).
Picture by Stephen Jones Photography
BE OUR GUEST: Musical Theatre Gisborne’s Beauty and the Beast triumvirate is made up of director John Drummond (centre), choreographer Jasmine Sargent (left) and musical director Chris Reynolds. Gisborne pianist Trish Tattle (front) plays an invaluable role for the show’s actors and dancers during rehearsals.
Picture by Stephen Jones Photography
John Drummond - Director (centre), pointing out to Myles Ashworth – Gaston and the cast, a finer point of their stage presence

SURELY by now someone has wisecracked who is the beauty and who is the beast out of musical director Chris Reynolds and choreographer Jasmine Sargent.

“The beauty of the show has been in working together,” says Reynolds.

At the heart of Musical Theatre Gisborne’s upcoming production of Beauty and the Beast is Belle, a bright and beautiful young woman who is imprisoned in a castle by a hideous beast. Belle ultimately sees beneath the Beast’s exterior and discovers a prince.

Beauty and the Beast is based on an 18th century fairy tale, said to have originated 4000 years ago. Musical Theatre Gisborne (MTG) is using the popular Disney version for its production.

Former Gisborne man John Drummond is the show’s director while Reynolds and Sargent shape the orchestration and choreography.

Dance teacher Sargent’s role is to choreograph a handful of big dance numbers and “bits and pieces here, there and everywhere”.

“The music can be challenging but it’s fun,” she says. “It has contrasts from one piece to the next. The challenge brings out the creativity.”

The former Gisborne woman has been involved with dance since she was five year old and has taught dance since she was 15. She now runs a dance school in Tauranga, which means every weekend she heads back to her hometown to choreograph the Beauty and the Beast dancers.

Working with the MTG cast of dancers has been a “fantastic learning process,” she says.

“I started the choreography with backing tracks so we were kind of going into it a little blind. Once Chris worked his magic with the musical arrangements and orchestra, we were well on track.”

Some extravagant dance numbers feature in Musical Theatre Gisborne’s Beauty and the Beast but one scene has been a challenge, says Sargent.

It involves dancing candlesticks, dishes, other 18th century palace items — but prior to seeing the costumes, the dancers had only a basic idea of what they looked like. This made figuring out how to use the stage space and how to work with the costumes . . . interesting.

“Choreographically it’s very busy,” says Sargent.

“The dancing dishes are very wide so in the early stages of rehearsals we had to visualise how they look. A lot of imagination was involved, but the dancers are very good at working around these challenges.”

The musical’s most well-known song, Be Our Guest, which features in this scene, is Sargent’s favourite moment in the show.

“Now we invite you to relax,” a candlestick says to Belle in the Disney cartoon version. “Just pull up a chair as the dining room proudly presents . . . your dinner.”

Cue the animated crockery, clock, condiments and other palace items’ magical song and dance scene that builds to a full-noise crescendo.

“This is when all the candlesticks and dishes are part of an intricate dance,” says Sargent.

“It has a lot of different parts in it.

“The production really is a collaboration between John, Chris and I. I’ve really enjoyed working with all the local talent. There is so much talent in Gisborne and they’re all so passionate, it has been fantastic.”

Cue music.

“The soundtrack to Beauty and the Beast is amazing,” says Reynolds.

“You can sense the fairy tale in it. It is wonderfully scored, beautiful music.

“I’m loving this show.”

What makes composer Alan Menken’s score so special is that no one piece of music starts and ends at the same tempo, says Reynolds.

“There are little nuances in each piece of music.”

As with the choreography, working out the orchestral accompaniment is not simply a matter of handing out scores and learning the music. Part of the musical director’s role is to work with the director and choreographer to decide what parts of the score will be left out and what stays in, says Reynolds.

“It’s like being handed a big box of colouring pencils but we don’t need all the colours. If a piece of music is too long, or not long enough, we are at liberty to move things around. We have arranged the full score, the orchestration, to suit what we’d like for the show.”

Some of the musical arrangement is tweaked to suit the choreography.

“In the trade it’s called cutting and pasting. It’s like editing except it has to have a musical value. You can’t just take out eight bars because it’s eight bars too long.

“I love this sort of challenge — sorting through the box of colouring pencils and deciding which ones to use in the palette. It’s enjoyable and manageable and done with taste, so it is rich and full for the public.”

Pianist Trish Tattle should be given special mention here. The dedicated and highly skilled pianist accompanies the cast during rehearsals . . . and Beauty and the Beast’s music is so involved, extra practice is needed.

The Band Room in Childers Road, home to the Gisborne Civic Orchestra, Gisborne Civic Brass Band, Gisborne Concert Band, Gisborne Pipe Band and Out of School Music programme, has opened its doors as a second rehearsal venue for Beauty and The Beast’s actors. At Reynolds’ invitation, many cast members have taken the opportunity to go along and work with the orchestra.

MTG’s production of Beauty and the Beast will be the first time the rebuilt War Memorial Theatre’s orchestra pit will be used. This means the audience will be able to see the orchestra in action up close, says Reynolds.

The rehearsal schedule for the show’s hand-picked musicians is demanding. The orchestra gets together with Reynolds every Sunday to practise all day. Rehearsals are also held on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights and Saturday afternoon.

“They’re raring to get this show on the road,” says Reynolds.

“Everyone is keen to make this as good as we possibly can.”

SURELY by now someone has wisecracked who is the beauty and who is the beast out of musical director Chris Reynolds and choreographer Jasmine Sargent.

“The beauty of the show has been in working together,” says Reynolds.

At the heart of Musical Theatre Gisborne’s upcoming production of Beauty and the Beast is Belle, a bright and beautiful young woman who is imprisoned in a castle by a hideous beast. Belle ultimately sees beneath the Beast’s exterior and discovers a prince.

Beauty and the Beast is based on an 18th century fairy tale, said to have originated 4000 years ago. Musical Theatre Gisborne (MTG) is using the popular Disney version for its production.

Former Gisborne man John Drummond is the show’s director while Reynolds and Sargent shape the orchestration and choreography.

Dance teacher Sargent’s role is to choreograph a handful of big dance numbers and “bits and pieces here, there and everywhere”.

“The music can be challenging but it’s fun,” she says. “It has contrasts from one piece to the next. The challenge brings out the creativity.”

The former Gisborne woman has been involved with dance since she was five year old and has taught dance since she was 15. She now runs a dance school in Tauranga, which means every weekend she heads back to her hometown to choreograph the Beauty and the Beast dancers.

Working with the MTG cast of dancers has been a “fantastic learning process,” she says.

“I started the choreography with backing tracks so we were kind of going into it a little blind. Once Chris worked his magic with the musical arrangements and orchestra, we were well on track.”

Some extravagant dance numbers feature in Musical Theatre Gisborne’s Beauty and the Beast but one scene has been a challenge, says Sargent.

It involves dancing candlesticks, dishes, other 18th century palace items — but prior to seeing the costumes, the dancers had only a basic idea of what they looked like. This made figuring out how to use the stage space and how to work with the costumes . . . interesting.

“Choreographically it’s very busy,” says Sargent.

“The dancing dishes are very wide so in the early stages of rehearsals we had to visualise how they look. A lot of imagination was involved, but the dancers are very good at working around these challenges.”

The musical’s most well-known song, Be Our Guest, which features in this scene, is Sargent’s favourite moment in the show.

“Now we invite you to relax,” a candlestick says to Belle in the Disney cartoon version. “Just pull up a chair as the dining room proudly presents . . . your dinner.”

Cue the animated crockery, clock, condiments and other palace items’ magical song and dance scene that builds to a full-noise crescendo.

“This is when all the candlesticks and dishes are part of an intricate dance,” says Sargent.

“It has a lot of different parts in it.

“The production really is a collaboration between John, Chris and I. I’ve really enjoyed working with all the local talent. There is so much talent in Gisborne and they’re all so passionate, it has been fantastic.”

Cue music.

“The soundtrack to Beauty and the Beast is amazing,” says Reynolds.

“You can sense the fairy tale in it. It is wonderfully scored, beautiful music.

“I’m loving this show.”

What makes composer Alan Menken’s score so special is that no one piece of music starts and ends at the same tempo, says Reynolds.

“There are little nuances in each piece of music.”

As with the choreography, working out the orchestral accompaniment is not simply a matter of handing out scores and learning the music. Part of the musical director’s role is to work with the director and choreographer to decide what parts of the score will be left out and what stays in, says Reynolds.

“It’s like being handed a big box of colouring pencils but we don’t need all the colours. If a piece of music is too long, or not long enough, we are at liberty to move things around. We have arranged the full score, the orchestration, to suit what we’d like for the show.”

Some of the musical arrangement is tweaked to suit the choreography.

“In the trade it’s called cutting and pasting. It’s like editing except it has to have a musical value. You can’t just take out eight bars because it’s eight bars too long.

“I love this sort of challenge — sorting through the box of colouring pencils and deciding which ones to use in the palette. It’s enjoyable and manageable and done with taste, so it is rich and full for the public.”

Pianist Trish Tattle should be given special mention here. The dedicated and highly skilled pianist accompanies the cast during rehearsals . . . and Beauty and the Beast’s music is so involved, extra practice is needed.

The Band Room in Childers Road, home to the Gisborne Civic Orchestra, Gisborne Civic Brass Band, Gisborne Concert Band, Gisborne Pipe Band and Out of School Music programme, has opened its doors as a second rehearsal venue for Beauty and The Beast’s actors. At Reynolds’ invitation, many cast members have taken the opportunity to go along and work with the orchestra.

MTG’s production of Beauty and the Beast will be the first time the rebuilt War Memorial Theatre’s orchestra pit will be used. This means the audience will be able to see the orchestra in action up close, says Reynolds.

The rehearsal schedule for the show’s hand-picked musicians is demanding. The orchestra gets together with Reynolds every Sunday to practise all day. Rehearsals are also held on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights and Saturday afternoon.

“They’re raring to get this show on the road,” says Reynolds.

“Everyone is keen to make this as good as we possibly can.”

Musical Theatre Gisborne presents Beauty and the Beast at the War Memorial Theatre, August 2-5, 7.30pm. Matinee 2.30pm, August 5.

Tickets available from Stephen Jones Photography or TicketDirect.

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