Beauty and the Beast: the Anatomy of a Stage Musical

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It’s seven o’clock on a Monday evening — the day after one of the worst storms Laredo has seen in quite a while. Inside Room 102 of the Guadalupe and Lilia Martinez Fine Arts Center Theater on the campus of Laredo Community College, there are no cancelled rehearsals for the musical Beauty and the Beast. The show must go on.

The members of the main cast are gathered for vocal rehearsals. Most of them are here — John Maxstadt as Cogsworth, Erin Perez as Lumière, Geofrey Blomquist as Gaston, Adrian Tristan as LeFou, Roel Rivera as Maurice, Kenneth Duncan Jr. as Monsieur D’arque, and Carolina Lozano as Belle. The Beast could not make it, and Mrs. Potts is out of town.

They begin with vocal warm-ups. It’s a takes-all-hands mentality in community theater.  Dana Crabtree, vocal director for the show and the actor playing Madame D. G. Bouche, is running late. When the clock reads 7:15 p.m., Carolina Lozano, cheerful and mannered, volunteers to play the piano and to lead vocal warm-ups for the cast. There are no complaints from the cast. There is no wasted time.

In a volunteer organization like the Laredo Theater Guild International — where people sacrifice their free time for the sake of the production — everyone’s time is precious. The cast, along with assistant stage managers Javier Sanchez and Ryan Duncan and stage manager Gil Martinez, decide it’s better to be warmed up when Crabtree arrives. Lozano helps fellow cast members find their voice and hit their notes.

Crabtree enters soon enough, and the rehearsal begins in earnest. The dynamic of this rehearsal is different from the previous stages of The Beauty and the Beast rehearsals. Everyone is still relaxed and cheery. Members of the cast take turns with Crabtree as she helps them with the wording, rhythm, tempo, and cadence of their musical numbers.

Vocal rehearsals have only just recently begun a few days the week previous, so this is truly the first time that the actors have had the opportunity to work on singing their songs. Along with learning words, the actor must know the rhythm and tempo of each song. Once that is mastered, the actor can begin the process of being the character and singing their song in the context of the play. The major choreography for the musical numbers will come next. For now, the actors are finding their characters and trying out basic gestures and movements that feel authentic as they learn their songs.

When an actor’s song is worked out, they are dismissed. Cogsworth and Lumière are the first to leave. Then Maurice and now it’s just Belle, Gaston, LeFou, and Monsieur D’arque. There are no major fumbles here, no song these actors cannot sing. It’s just smoothing out the wrinkles, tightening up loose bits.

The pieces are all in place. The chemistry is there. The voices are in harmony. Now it is practice, practice, practice. Now it is shaping, forming, rounding out the play in all areas, from all angles.

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