Beauty & The Beast
Author: Mary Delle Robinson
Be our guest! Hilton Head Christian Academy Theater Department invites one and all to its spring production of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, set to run Thursday through Saturday, March 26-28 at the Seahawk Cultural Center. This Academy Award-winning Disney classic and 15-year Broadway hit is a feast for the eyes and hearts of audiences of all ages. It’s a classic love story filled with unforgettable characters, lavish sets and costumes, and dazzling production numbers sure to delight the senses.
Its “wow-factor” is amplified by the show’s talented cast of 50-plus students in grades 6-12, directed by HHCA Teacher of theYear Michelle McElroy in her debut as head of the school’s up-and-coming theater department, and by Fine Arts department head James Berry’s live orchestra of 15-plus student and professional guest musicians. HHCA drama veteran Rhonda Stones fills the role of assistant director, and art director LouAnne Barrett returns as set designer. All in all, this is one strong theater team.
Indeed, it takes a village of talented townsfolk and guest professionals to pull off a masterful production of this magnitude, and Hilton Head Christian has been blessed with an abundance of both. McElroy is delighted and honored by the outpouring of assistance from a plethora of talented professionals in the surrounding arts community, all of whom treat one another like extended family. Costumes and props have been loaned by Main Street and May River Theatres, and arts folks from all over the island are lending their time and talents to this production.
Guest choreographer Patti Maurer, president of the Island School Council for the Arts and professional dancer herself, offers her theatrical dance talents to HHCA for the second year in a row. Yet another professional guest is May River Theatre music director Beth Corry, who turned down several other offers to focus on HHCA’s Beauty and The Beast, because she experienced such joy in the family atmosphere on campus. “I feel it in my heart. It makes me happy to be here,” Corry said.
Another returning alumni guest from the local arts community is technical director Dick Sanders, who imparts his skills to this HHCA production for the twentieth year. What keeps him coming back year after year is the kids.
“What I enjoy most is when a student who has never been involved in theater gets bitten by the bug and finds a passion for this kind of work—whether it’s power tools, lighting design or sound production,” Sanders said.
Sophomore Jamie Hubbard, stepping into the role of stage manager, is one of those who got bitten by the tech crew bug in seventh grade. “It’s a lot of pressure to make sure the show runs smoothly, and Mr. Sanders expects a lot; but he wants what’s best for us and the show,” Hubbard said. She and Sanders know it’s the camaraderie of the cast and crew that binds everyone together as theater family.
The joy of drama camaraderie is echoed by all—adults and young people alike—as their favorite part of the production process. The youngest cast member, sixth-grader Madison MacCabe, explains: “At first it was intimidating, but the older kids welcomed me—I got over it quickly.” Especially when fellow cast members brought cupcakes and balloons to practice to celebrate her eleventh birthday. “It’s delicious,” she chimed—oh, wait, that’s the line she delivers as Chip.
McElroy credits the tremendous growth of the fine arts program at HHCA in recent years to the formation and dedication of HHCA’s Fine Arts Alliance, the school’s recent investment in a new performing arts facility, as well as the addition of middle and upper school theater classes. The return on investment is students who are fired up about theater.
Junior Joseph Lankowski (Cogsworth) is one of several student-actor-athletes, juggling sports (soccer) and play practices. “Drama is first priority in my actor-athlete contract,” said Lankowski, also a star running back on the HHCA football team.
McElroy relishes the enthusiastic drama culture she has helped to cultivate. “It is refreshing to see students make theater a priority on their long lists of extra-curricular activities. The energy and excitement surrounding this show has been evident since day one,” she said.
Another member of the HHCA theater family since sixth grade, junior Henry Clark, who landed his first lead role as Gaston, admits that his headphones are usually plugged in to the show’s playlist.
The Belle of Beauty and the Beast is a relative newcomer to the HHCA theater family. In her second year on stage, senior Meccay Nimmer is much like her simply beautiful, down-to-earth character. “She’s my favorite Disney princess of all time, so this is a dream come true,” said Nimmer, who channels a spot-on Belle.
Rounding out the main cast is Holden Whitt as the Beast, landing his second lead role as just a sophomore. With only a few juniors and seniors in the production, McElroy is excited that her core group of theater students will be performing for years to come. “Combined with the current momentum of the program, this will be an exciting era for Hilton Head Christian Academy drama,” she said. This HHCA theater family is definitely one to watch.
Beauty and the Beast is the classic story of Belle, a compassionate and confident, if odd, young woman, and the Beast, who is really a young prince trapped in a spell placed by an enchantress because of his selfish ways. If the Beast can learn to love and be loved, the curse will end and he will be transformed to his former self. But time is running out. If the Beast does not learn his lesson soon, he and his household will be doomed for eternity.
HHCA’s Beauty and the Beast will run nightly March 26, 27 & 28 at 7 p.m. at the Seahawk Cultural Center on Wilborn Road, with an additional Saturday 2:30 matinee. Tickets are available at hhcadrama.eventbrite.com.