, Muskogee, OK


February 20, 2014

An invitation from MHS

Students hope ‘Beauty and the Beast’ will fill the house

Katie Matthews is sweet. Seth Chapuis is cocky. Ashtonn Thompson is funny. Patrick Kays is compassionate. Trae Havens is animated.

These are a few of the actors in Muskogee High School’s production of Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast.” Their personalities seem to fit their roles. A cast of about 60 students from elementary to high school will bring the love story to life at 7:30 p.m. today and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday at MHS Performing Arts Center. Tickets are $10, $8 and $5 and are available from any cast member, by calling (918) 684-3750, or at the door.

Director Penny McGill said this smash hit Broadway musical, based on the Academy Award-winning animated feature film, tells the story of far-off places, daring sword fights, magic spells and a prince in disguise.

“Students participate in all aspects of the production from directing to building the set to promotions,” she said.

Matthews, who portrays Belle, has seen the musical on Broadway, at Muskogee Little Theatre and at Disney World.

“I wanted this part,” she said. “I’m pleased at how it has come together.”

The senior said this show has been the easiest for her during her theater career.

“All the principals are encouraging,” she said. “I go to Trae — a friend since kindergarten.”

Matthews, 18, will put her acting skills and vocal talents on the shelf when she goes to Oklahoma State University in the fall to major in engineering. “I love theater, but my heart is in math,” she said.

Not so for Havens, also 18 and a senior, who seems to be a friend to all in the cast. He will audition for theater in March at the University of Oklahoma. He said this show has been the most fun of his high school career.

“It’s a blast ... the best way to go out in high school theater,” said Havens, who portrays Lumiere. “I’m blown away by how unmatched the talent is.”

One of those talents is Kays, 18, who has been in competitive theater throughout high school. He plans to attend Northeastern State University and participate in theater.

“I’ve done so many shows with Mrs. McGill,” he said. “She’s helped me grow. Acting is my talent.”

Kays has played an old man several times, so portraying Maurice, Belle’s father, seemed to fit. The toughest part was learning how to act as a father having a relationship with a daughter. He got help from the cast, which includes five seniors in lead roles.

“This whole crew has been doing theater since we were little,” he said.

Another of those seniors is Ryan Summerhill, 17. He plays the Beast, the role he wanted.

“The music is in my vocal range,” he said. “I’m usually the funny character. This year, I’m the big serious character.”

Summerhill has done high school musicals for five years, in parts ranging from ensemble to lead. He plans to attend Ozark Christian College to be a youth minister but will still do community theater.

Another senior, Chapuis, 17, tried out for the Beast but was cast as Gaston, the overbearing hunk who chases Belle. The role wasn’t a stretch for him, he said.

“I joke around being cocky,” he said. “I’m getting the songs down.”

Chapuis has been doing theater since he was in “The Nutcracker” at Sadler Arts Academy. He probably won’t continue with theater while he attends NSU to become an optometrist. For now he is enjoying Matthews’ voice and laughing at Thompson, whom he calls “fantastic.”

Thompson, 16, a junior, is LeFou, Gaston’s sidekick. It’s his fourth show since eighth grade.

“I wanted this part. It was my first choice,” he said. “This character is more to my personality. I get all the laughs. The leads are fantastic.”

In addition to the leads, it takes an ensemble to pull all the beautiful costumes and staging together. Seniors Maryah Reavis, 19, and Ashlee Fletcher, 17, are candlesticks. Reavis has been in the ensemble four years. Fletcher also was in MLT’s production of “Beauty and The Beast” as a knife. Senior Jamari Davidson, 18, said he likes being in the ensemble because he likes “singing loud.” And senior Ashli Teague, 18, is a dancing napkin, which fits her love of dance. She said the choreographer, Jenna Stocks, did an amazing job.

The cast hopes for big crowds this weekend. Thompson doesn’t see how anyone could miss it.

“It’s a family classic,” he said. “The music is pretty. Come see us.”

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