The Cleburne High School musical production of Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” will be presented in three community performances December 15, 17 and 18 in the Don Smith Performing Arts Center. Admission is $5
A project of the choir and theater arts programs, the production is one not to miss, according to the “Beauty,” junior Rylee Mullen, and the “Beast,” senior Brandon Finley.
“The set is beautiful, whimsical, larger than life,” Mullen said. “The costumes are amazing and there’s great vocal talent. It’s so much fun. It’s Disney--the audience will be singing along. And in the telling of the story, there are lessons to be learned and some touching and very funny moments.”
“Amazing” is also the word heard often in Finley’s remarks regarding the CHS musical production.
“We have an amazing cast,” he said. “This show has possibly the best cast since I’ve been in high school. The stage chemistry is amazing, as are the technical elements. Mrs. (Keli) Price has gone beyond in producing this show.”
Price, in her second year as theater arts teacher at CHS, agrees this production is definitely major, and she credits the cast, her technical crew and co-producer, choir director Weslee Vance, in making it happen.
“Everyone has been working so hard since day one,” she said. “They have pulled together, and they are all very close—cast and crew. We have so much talent.”
Mullen has been singing and acting since the age of six. She has appeared in numerous Plaza Theatre productions through the years, but this will be her first time to perform in a CHS presentation.
When asked how it feels to play the beautiful girl in a fairy tale, “enchanting” is her reply.
“I have always wanted the chance to be in a show as big and beautiful as this,” she said. “I identify with Belle. She’s studious, shy and a book lover--and so am I. I have friends, but I also know how it is to feel like Belle, in not always fitting in.”
“I auditioned for Belle, but like with any production, I’m open to any part,” Mullen said. “I just want to be a part of the theater family.”
While the 17-year-old’s acting experience is quite varied, musical theater is where her passion lies. Between an academic schedule filled with AP classes and her ongoing participation in Plaza productions, Mullen has been a “busy Beauty” since October, when she added rehearsals for the musical to her calendar.
“It’s been hard with all my other activities,” she said. “But everything has come together and being in this is so worth it. I’m still getting my lines and cues down and working on that emotional connection to my character. It’s critical that I become Belle when I am on stage, and to see my fellow cast members in the same light.”
Mullen says she is happy to share the stage with the Beast in the production.
“Brandon is very easy to work with,” she said. “We have connected through our acting experiences and we are also friends. One of my favorite moments in the play is where I’m reading to the Beast and we have that connecting moment.”
“Rylee’s great,” Finley said. “At first I was nervous about working with her because all she does as an actress, and her years of experience. We have a great chemistry on stage. She’s nice, she gets the job done. She’s amazing in hitting those high notes. She can act, sing, dance—she does it all.”
Finley set his sights on the role of the Beast when he learned last spring that the production had been selected.
“I was so excited,” he said. “It’s a good role that fits my character type, but it’s also a hard one because of the singing. I worked on that part throughout the summer. I was so nervous about the audition because I wanted it so bad.”
Finley portrayed Coach Bolton in Cleburne’s 2017 production of “High School Musical,” but it was strictly a speaking part. Feeling he needed more musical theater under his belt, he auditioned for Plaza’s summer production of “All Shook Up,” landing the role of singing Sheriff Earl.
“It got me out of my comfort zone,” he said. “After that, and now singing in Beauty and the Beast, I’d love to do more musicals. I have gained that much confidence.”
Whether singing or growling, Finley is also confident in his role of the Beast. The challenges include a facial transformation as the monster on stage.
“I will be in heavy makeup and have lots of hair on my face,” he said. “It’s a very physical role in the way I need to walk and in the slight growls I give off in conveying the animal feel of my character. I’ll also be barefoot, which I think is cool.”
While Finley competed with several friends for the role of the Beast, he recruited best friend Luke Galan to audition for the Beast’s arch enemy, Gaston.
“He’s never acted before, but I begged him and begged him to try out for Gaston,” Finley said. “He finally agreed—and he got it. Keaton (Howe) is great as Lumiere. He’s a sophomore and the future of CHS theater. Maxwell (Tindall) ‘is’ Cogsworth. It is who he is—he is perfect for that role. And Antares (Ewell) is amazing as Mrs. Potts. Her British accent is great and the audience will love when she sings. All the guys I have gone through high school with are in this production and I am so happy to be working with them.”
While neither Belle nor the Beast will be pursuing degrees in theater, it will remain an interest. Finley, who is a student intern with the Cleburne Police Department, has plans for a career in law enforcement. He may be a singing policeman, as acting will continue as a hobby.
Mullen plans to major in biology in achieving a B.S. in nursing, with the ultimate goal of becoming a physician’s assistant.
“I’m very passionate about the health care and medical fields,” she said. “The people are so dedicated and I want to be a part of that. But I will seek out community theatre wherever I go. It’s changed my life and made me who I am.”
Cleburne ISD students in grades 3-5 will be attending school-day performances of the production on December 18.
Those attending the opening night performance can come early to sip tea or lemonade and meet the cast of Beauty and the Beast at “Tea Time with Mrs. Potts,” which will take place from 5-6:30 p.m. Admission is $5 and children are invited to dress as their favorite Disney characters. Proceeds from the event will benefit the CHS theater arts program.
The Beast, portrayed by Brandon Finley, has some angry words for Rylee Mullen, cast as Belle, during this rehearsal scene from Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast.” The Cleburne High School musical production of “Beauty and the Beast” will be presented December 15, 17 and 18 at 7 p.m. in the Don Smith Performing Arts Center.