Curtain rising for 'Beauty and the Beast JR' at Shaler Area

| Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2013, 9:01 p.m.

Shaler Area Middle School students will tell their version of “a tale as old as time” when the curtain opens on “Beauty and the Beast JR.” this weekend.

The musical is an abridged version of the Broadway adaptation of Disney's 1991 animated film in which a prince is turned into a beast by a magic spell that only love can break.

The musical adaptation features all of the enchanted characters from the movie including Chip, a teacup; Lumiere, a candelabrum; and Cogsworth, a clock.

“It's a story they know, so I think they got excited about it pretty early,” said Jennifer Birch, middle school English teacher and musical director.

To add to the students' enthusiasm, the directorial staff also worked to create more elaborate scenes by renting costumes from Pittsburgh Musical Theater, a nonprofit professional company, and creating larger set designs with help from parent volunteers.

“Each year we keep getting bigger and better,” said Kristen Paul, a middle school English teacher and set designer.

Close to 90 students in seventh and eighth grade have been rehearsing since November to get into character for opening night, Friday, Feb. 22.

“We've all come together to make this the best it can be,” said Paige Milavec, an eighth-grader who plays Belle.

Milavec said she is no stranger to the story of “Beauty and the Beast,” and Belle is even one of her favorite Disney princesses; however, she has taken the extra effort to research her character in preparation for the musical.

“Over the past couple of weeks, I've tried to become her,” Milavec said. “I've watched other performances and the movie to get a feel for her personality.”

Jake Bartosh, a seventh-grader, said the cast has come a long way during rehearsals and are working for perfection by opening night.

“At first it was really hard,” said Bartosh, who plays the Beast. “But, now that we're getting close to the show, we're getting serious about it.”

One of the cast's favorite scenes is the mob song in which Gaston, played by eighth-grader Dan Bittner, leads the villagers in an attack on the Beast's castle.

“I know people are coming to kill me,” said Bartosh of his character, “but the lyrics are fun and the beat is catchy.”

Bittner, who was in last year's middle school musical, said the cast is strong this year and it will be a musical that the community shouldn't miss.

“In my opinion, I think it's going to be very, very good,” Bittner said. “The singing is good, the acting is good. I think it's going to come out very well.”

Bethany Hofstetter is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6364 or

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