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Preble tells a tale as old as time

Student actress portraying Belle from Beauty and the Beast

One more weekend to see Beauty and the Beast

By Janelle Fisher

City Pages Editor

Green Bay Preble High School is inviting community members to “be their guest” and attend a showing of this year’s fall musical — Alan Menken’s Beauty and the Beast.

At Preble, the process for picking the fall show actually begins right after the previous year’s show concludes.

The show’s director, Megan Sweeney, said there are a lot of factors that go into deciding on a show, and that, “Not every show fits every year. It’s quite a process to find the one that will fit well.”

Students performing on stage
Preble High School is halfway through its run of performances of Beauty and the Beast. There’s still time to catch a performance this weekend. Submitted photos

“We start thinking about what shows might fit the students that we have and what kind of shows we have done in the last two years,” she said. “I think we like to offer a pretty ‘balanced diet’ of different kinds of musicals to our students. Two years ago we did a very modern one based on the Sister Act movie and then last year we did a contemporary show… We did The Addams Family. We know putting on a Disney show every few years is a really good way to get a lot of people in to see shows and to bolster our budget and there’s typically a lot of opportunities for kids [to participate].”

Sweeney said Beauty and the Beast had everything she was looking for out of this year’s production — including the ability to get more kids out on stage.

“I wanted to do a big show that offered a lot of opportunities for our ensemble members,” she said. “We went from a cast of 24 last year and we have a cast of 32 this year and a huge crew.”

Helping to make the iconic show possible at Preble, Sweeney said, are Visual Director Paula Tolksdorf and Technical Director Jeff Kline.

Fans of the original Disney film will be delighted to see that the musical includes everything they know and love, plus added songs and story.

Students performing on stage
Director Megan Sweeney said doing a well-known show can come with added challenges, but Preble students rose to the occasion.

“It’s based on the 1991 Disney animated feature Beauty and the Beast,” she said. “It has all the songs that were in that, plus I think it’s like eight additional songs that were written by Alan Menken to expand upon the characters and storyline and to go from about a less than 90-minute animated feature to a two-and-a-half hour full Broadway musical. There’s a lot of content. Hey expand upon the Disney story and the relationship the builds between Belle and the Beast and the different characters’ backgrounds… But it’s still got all the famous songs that everyone remembers.”

Taking on such a big, well-known show is no easy task, Sweeney said.

Student band
Cast and crew have been working hard to master the well-known songs featured in the show that many audience members may recall from the Disney film, in addition to new songs written just for the musical.

“I think the biggest challenge was the sheer size and breadth and depth of the show and how many musical numbers there are…” she said. “It’s kind of the first time that we’ve had a show where our job is to literally be Disney, because there are people out there who know this show like the back of their hand and we have to do this show with fidelity to what people know and remember from Disney. While [the students] weren’t alive or weren’t born yet when the original movie came out, all their parents were and their siblings and me and all these people, so they’re coming expecting Beauty and the Beast.”

Preble’s performers rose to the occasion, though, and Sweeney said their hard work has been rewarded with high attendance at last weekend’s shows.

“I think we had almost 600 in our house each night, which is awesome…” she said. “So it was a very, very successful first weekend, which was great because we had been on a six-day streak of rehearsals every day and [the students] were tired, but it was great to see them all smiling and feeling successful.”

Showings of Beauty and the Beast will continue this weekend at Preble High School on Nov. 17 and 18 at 7 p.m. and Nov. 19 at 1 p.m.

Visit preble.gbaps.org to learn more about the show and to purchase tickets.

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