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Brentwood student-actors get into their roles in musical

| Wednesday, April 3, 2013, 9:01 p.m.
Stephanie Hacke | South Hills Record
Cast members in this year’s Brentwood Middle/High School musical, Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast,” from left, Thomas Turnbull as Lumiere, Mara Eisenbarth as Babette and Kevin Pacini as Cogsworth hide from the Beast, in back, Anthony McDonnell.
Stephanie Hacke | South Hills Record
Brentwood High School sophomore Kristen Blazeyewski, 16, who plays the part of Belle in this year’s spring musical Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast,” sings “Little Town” on stage.
Stephanie Hacke | South Hills Record
Members of this year’s cast of Brentwood Middle/High School’s spring musical, Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast,” perform a pre-show for middle schoolers and Munchkin University child care students. They are, from left, Thomas Turnbull as Lumiere, Mara Eisenbarth as Babette, Josh Hannan as Maurice, Christina Vincenti as Chip and Emily Schneider as Mrs. Potts.
Stephanie Hacke | South Hills Record
Cast members in this year’s Brentwood Middle/High School musical, Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast,” perform a scene. They are, from left, Kevin Pacini as Cogsworth and Thomas Turnbull as Lumiere.

Twirling around in the poufy, bright gold ball gown — her newly dyed brown hair twisted neatly away from her face —- Kristen Blazeyewski said she feels like a princess.

“This is real. I'm actually Belle,” said the Brentwood High School sophomore.

That magical, fairytale feeling is coming to life on the Brentwood Middle/High School stage as students perform this year's spring musical, Disney's “Beauty and the Beast.”

Elaborate sets and costumes, months of preparation and a tight-knit cast are helping to transform the Brentwood auditorium into a land of fantasy, in their own Spartan fashion, of course.

“They have Disney magic. We have Brentwood magic,” said junior Kevin Pacini, 17, who plays Cogsworth.

Director Steve Leopold said he has always wanted to have a Disney show performed on the Brentwood stage. This year, there were enough boys to fill the parts.

“It's the magic,” he said. The show also sticks with Leopold's philosophy that all performances at Brentwood must be family friendly and appeal to audiences of all ages, he said.

“We wanted to look at this and do this in our own way,” Leopold said. “The kids, they put their heart and soul into the musical.”

This year's show required extensive planning for school officials who begin last June researching costumes, props and that tricky and often difficult transformation of the Beast into a prince, said Ginnie Schaap, assistant director.

“If I'm going to do it, I might as well do it as accurate as I can,” she said, minutes after running to the borough library to borrow books from the show's time period that could be used on stage as props.

Students joked that Schaap would stand in front of the stage staring, trying to envision how things would transform, or come to rehearsals excited, shouting, “I had a dream last night, this is how we're doing it.”

“It's true,” she said, laughing.

Students began rehearsing in December for the show. Their transformations into the characters have been uncanny, Leopold said. It's almost like each student was born to play their part, he said.

Some students said they were worried at first when they heard Brentwood was going to be performing “Beauty and the Beast” this year. After all, it's a big production with large sets and detailed costumes and Brentwood is a small school, with a little stage and an even smaller wing space.

“I thought we'd never be able to do it. It's so grand,” said junior Anthony McDonnell, 16, who plays the Beast.

But, they found a way to make things work. And this show is one they know everyone will enjoy.

“Everyone grows up wanting to be Belle,” said senior Emily Schneider, 18, who plays Mrs. Potts.

“Not everyone grows up wanting to be the Beast,” McDonnell said with a laugh. “Or a prince.”

The change of pace in the show will keep the audience entertained throughout and those familiar melodies will have them singing from their seats, as students perform from the aisle and stage.

“That's the best part. Everyone can get involved,” Schneider said. “Everyone knows the songs. It will be stuck in their heads for weeks.”

The cast this year has bonded over the melodies, lines and hours upon hours spent together.

“The kids all come together and are like a family,” Schaap said. “You would think they would have had enough of each other after seeing each other five days a week for three hours a day, but they want more. I figure that means we're doing something right.”

“What makes this show special is how we mesh. Everybody works for each other,” said senior Mara Eisenbarth, 17, who plays Babette. “ It's not who can be the best, it's how can we be the best together,”

Stephanie Hacke is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5818 or shacke@tribweb.com.

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