Gateway to stage production of 'Beauty and the Beast' next week

| Wednesday, April 10, 2013, 9:01 p.m.

Falling from a platform suspended at least 10 feet above the stage is a risk that Jacob Churilla is willing to take for his role as the desperate and delusional lover, Gaston, in this year's Gateway High School musical, “Beauty and the Beast.”

This classic story follows the heart of an aspiring adventurer, Belle, as she denies advances made by the arrogant Gaston and rescues her father from a prince whose shallow personality brought a curse on his appearance and castle that can only be lifted by true love.

Churilla, a senior, says he isn't scared of heights but is concerned with the musical challenges in the play.

“Gaston is definitely a very demanding role, vocally. I hit in my low range and in my high range,” Churilla said. “It's hard, it's challenging and it's something that's really fun, too, once you get into it.”

Churilla isn't the only member of the cast who has had to train his vocal cords more rigorously. The role of Belle — which is doublecast with Irene Grysiak, 18, and Carissa Machi, 18 — is involved in more songs than any of the other characters.

A main concern for both Belles, Machi said, is not losing their voices as they sing their nine songs during the performance.

“But that's a good thing about being doublecast,” said Grysiak. With alternating weekends and practices, the two have time to rest and perform to the best of their abilities.

There are some differences between the musical and the 1991 Disney movie that it's based on, said Grysiak. Not only does the musical reveal more about the characters, it features “If I Can't Love Her,” a new song that is sung by the Beast and explores more thoroughly his love for Belle.

“It adds a depth to his character,”Grysiak said. “You truly pity (the Beast) through a lot of the songs that they add.”

While much of the play will replicate the traditional movie, the Broadway musical provides a more developed story.

“You're going to come comparing it to the movie,” said Patrick McIntyre, 17, who plays the role of the Beast, “(but) there's so much more to this than in the movie.”

Bob Read, the music teacher at Gateway High School, is directing his 23rd production. He said he has wanted to do “Beauty and the Beast” for years.

Although the school musical usually is selected after students audition, Read said he knew that he had the talent with this group of students to be able to put on what he knew would be a difficult production. So the production got started as soon as possible, with practices beginning in January as well as set and costume designs being developed early on.

Read said things are on track to make this one of the best musicals the school has put on. His main concern, he said, is that people may have to be turned away at the door because the show could sell out.

The intricate set, which was drafted and painted by professional set designer Alfred Kirschman, includes several large pieces to portray the village Belle grew up in as well as the vast domain of the Beast.

“The castle is going to be pretty magical,” Read said. “When that curtain goes up, the audience is going to be pretty much transported to the Beast's castle.”

The Monroeville and Pitcairn communities have been very supportive, Read said, by helping to make this $65,000 endeavor into a reality through ads sold and fundraisers organized and executed by the students and staff.

The district does not provide any of the budget for the play, which covers the cost of supplies for costumes and set, salaries for designers and choreographers and royalties for the production.

The show includes 64 students in the cast, 24 in the orchestra, and more than 30 involved in the stage crew.

“We are definitely working as hard as we possibly can to make sure that this show is one that will be remembered for a very long time,” McIntyre said.

Matthew DeFusco is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-871-2311 or

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