COTTONWOOD - Beauty and the Beast may be the most elaborate production presented to date by Mingus Union High School's ATORT (A Troop of Ridiculous Thespians).
"This show is a visually stunning masterpiece that is loads of fun for the whole family," said James Ball, teacher and head of the theater department, who also happens to serve as director, producer and set designer for this production.
Ball said Beauty and the Beast has been more work than any of the plays his students have put on during his five years at Mingus.
"It's Beauty and the Beast, and you're playing with people's expectations," Ball said. "That's much more challenging."
He explained that the students are doing the Disney version of Beauty and the Beast.
"It's much more family friendly for kids," he said. "We're not on a Disney budget, and we're trying to get that animated look and trying to live up to what people expect from Beauty and the Beast. And now, even trying to live up to what people expect from Mingus theater."
"Just putting on Beauty and the Beast is a lot of fun," Ball said.
And Thursday, the Mingus students will share that fun with about 850 kids who will see the final dress rehearsal before the production starts on Friday night. Those kids are coming from Dr. Daniel Bright, Oak Creek and Mountain View Preparatory schools in the Cottonwood-Oak Creek School District.
Ball said he started working on the set design back in July. "We've actually been physically working on them since January," he said. "We have more than 100 people involved, with a cast of 31."
Once again, Ball has put together the pit orchestra with a mix of student and professional musicians. Music for the Disney version of Beauty and the Beast is by Alan Menken, with lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice. The book is by Linda Woolverton.
Senior Mariana Arellano plays the lead of Belle. This was the first time Mariana auditioned for a part in a Mingus production. She was in the orchestra twice and has worked with the stage crew.
"I love music," Mariana said. "It's so exciting and so much more fun than I expected."
"I didn't expect to get this far at all," she said.
Mariana said she got really excited when she got the part because she didn't expect to get it. Music is so important in her life that Mariana says she will major in college in flute performance and music education.
"I love music and I love performing," Mariana said. "It feels like I'm complete when I'm on stage."
Senior Shiloh Sumrall plays the part of Beast. He has been part of the ATORT group since the beginning of his junior year when he started with the stage crew.
"I've been singing my whole life, since kindergarten," Shiloh said.
His first actual role, and his first time acting, was a part in the school's production of Impression Monet. He also was one of the lead dancers in Anything Goes, and then he had two roles in Almost, Maine.
Shiloh said his experience so far with Beauty and the Beast has been very good. "The challenge has really come to life," he said. "Every night it pushes me to be my best."
The role itself pushes Shiloh into new performance territory. "I have one main solo," he said. He's done solos before in choir. "But it's my first time doing a solo on stage."
Shiloh plans to major in percussion in college. After all, he is, at heart, a drummer.
"I'm a drummer," he said. "That's my absolute passion in life." But he says he will continue studying performance and theater.
John Condon plays the part of Lumiere (Candlestick). He is a senior and has been involved with Mingus theater since his sophomore year. His first role with ATORT was a supporting role in Midsummer Night's Dream.
"It's always been my dream to act, whether in film or on stage," John said. "I'm wildly blessed. Mr. Ball has created a comfortable environment that we can better our craft in."
John said being involved in school theater feels like it's a place he was meant to be. "I've grown with these people through high school."
He says it has "been great" being part of Beauty and the Beast. "The roles are really challenging."
Performances are scheduled for Friday April 13 & 20 and Saturday April 14. Evening performances begin at 7 p.m. Two Sunday performances are scheduled for 3 p.m. on April 15 & 22.
Tickets are $12 for adults, $10 for seniors and $8 for students and children. All tickets are $2 more when purchased at the door.
To purchase tickets early go to www.showtix4u.com or stop by Mingus Union High School at 1801 E. Fir St. in Cottonwood. Tickets may be reserved by email to James Ball at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (928) 649-4466.