Wednesday, January 17, 2018
Education

Largo High to stage 'Beauty and the Beast'

LARGO

If you walk by the Largo High School auditorium this week and you hear a student yelling at a teacher, don't be alarmed.

It's just two actors getting ready for a big show.

The spring musical at Largo High is Beauty and the Beast. Because of a request made by drama director Deborah Wortock, choral director William Renfroe is playing the part of Maurice, Belle's father.

"This is something I haven't done in years,'' said Renfroe, 62.

During the dungeon scene after Belle (played by student Laura Morris) agrees to take the place of the imprisoned Maurice, the Beast (played by student Peter Jackson) forces Maurice to leave the castle.

"To the crossroads!'' Jackson bellows while forcing Renfroe from the stage.

It's not like Jackson makes a habit of yelling at his teachers.

"Actually, Mr. Renfroe is my mentor,'' said Jackson, a two-time Walker Rising Star finalist who will attend the University of North Florida in August. "But it is fun to have a teacher get down to the student's level.''

Renfroe, Wortock and band director Christopher Benoit have worked together in the school's fine arts department for more than 20 years. As part of their duties, the three have brought together their students to put on a musical every other year.

Renfroe, though, is planning to retire after the 2012-2013 school year, so Beauty and the Beast is the last spring production the longtime friends will direct together.

"They tricked me into doing it,'' Renfroe joked. "But it's fun. I suppose this could be seen as a swan song.''

Beauty and the Beast, based on the Disney Broadway production with music by Alan Menken and lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice, includes 40 students from the drama and choral departments as actors, about 20 students from the band department, and about a dozen more student volunteers creating and painting the sets.

The story is set in a French town and revolves around Belle, who is frustrated with her life and fighting off the affections of the conceited Gaston, played by sophomore Tyler Kubiak, who also serves as the show's lighting designer and technical director.

Belle's father, Maurice, gets lost in the woods on the way to a fair and ends up in a castle belonging to a scary Beast. When Belle hears that her father is being held captive, she tells the Beast she wants to give up her freedom to save her father's life.

One of the reasons Wortock wanted to produce Beauty and the Beast was because of Laura Morris, a fourth-year drama student and president of Largo High's International Thespian Society. She's also this year's valedictorian.

"I knew she'd be a good fit as Belle,'' Wortock said.

How tough was it to achieve the grades necessary to be valedictorian and also play lead in the show? "It does get hard sometimes. There are some long nights of studying after rehearsal," said Morris, who will attend Florida State University in the fall.

But she realized her study skills have helped her acting. "The same memory skills I've gotten from studying for class have helped me in memorizing lines for the show,'' she said.

Palm Harbor University High School produced the show a few years ago. Teachers there offered to rent Largo High the costumes and several set pieces.

Additionally, Wortock is renting the backdrops, including the forest, the village and the castle, from theatrical companies out of state.

"This might be the most exciting show we've done," she said. "It is also the most expensive and the most spectacular.''

Piper Castillo can be reached at (727) 445-4163 [email protected]

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