HARLINGEN — She’s a woman of courage and conviction, and her fortitude continues to inspire everyone who meets her.
Now, Belle will once again impress the imaginations of anyone who comes to see Beauty and the Beast, which opens this week at the Harlingen Performing Arts Conservatory.
“I think it’s one of the most fun musicals that I’ve ever done,” said Gabriella Celine Garza, 17, one of two actresses playing Belle.
“I feel like this is the show is going to be amazing,” she said. “I think that everyone is going to enjoy what they see. The characters and the costumes are also different and intriguing, like there are spoons and knives, and so it’s going to be amazing.”
Beauty and the Beast is a fresh new experience of a story that goes back thousands of years.
More recently, French writers composed the story for children and from that influence have sprung numerous renditions of the story.
Still more familiar and delightful to audiences has been Disney’s animated presentation of the beloved tale, which the Conservatory has worked diligently to create.
The musical tells the story of an enchantress disguised as a beggar who arrives at a French castle and offers a very unsavory prince a rose in return for shelter. He sourly turns her away, and she turns him into a beast as punishment. If that’s not bad enough, the servants get it too, suddenly becoming household objects. She tells him the spell will be broken only if he learns to fall in love and earn the love of another.
Enter Belle, a studious, forthright young lady who rebuffs a man who’s handsome and knows it.
“Anyone I think can relate to Belle,” said Maegan Conley, one of the directors.
“She’s a dreamer,” Conley said. “She’s from this small town, and she’s constantly got her head in these books because she gravitates toward larger things in life, stories and beauty and wonder.”
Belle shows her strength as she winds up in the castle under the control of the sour tempered Beast, played by Benjamin Trevino.
“He takes all of this pain because he was transformed from something beautiful into something so horrid for his own jealousy and his own anger,” said Benjamin, 15.
“He has until his 21st birthday to transform back into a human, or he will be that way forever,” he said. “He’s incredibly lonely in a castle full of lively creatures only because he chooses to not talk to anybody.”
Aaron Blount, who also plays Belle, has enjoyed preparing for the performance.
“I grew up watching Beauty and the Beast,” said Aaron, 15. “She was always one of my favorite princesses, and it’s just a dream to play her on stage.”
While she’s enjoyed the role, it hasn’t come without challenge, especially since she and Garza both also have to play “silly girls” who fawn all over the character Gaston.
“They’re in love with Gaston,” Aaron said. “They just kind of follow him around. They’re very comical. They provide some of the comic relief in the show. They’re very energetic and just dumb blondes pretty much.”
Students and directors both seem to have enjoyed bringing the Disney classic to life.
“It has been awesome,” said Christopher Esparza, another one of the directors.
“It’s been an experience working with the team,” he said. “We all got together and decided we wanted to do Beauty and the Beast because we all knew we had an incredible team.”
Come see for yourself.
Belle – Gabriella Celine Garza/Aaron Blount
Beast – Benjamin Trevino
Gaston – Tristan Flores
Lefour – Ryan Velasquez
Maurice – Alek Araguz
Lumiere – Samuel Howell
Cogsworth – Keoni Vega
Babette – Meaghan Blackburn
Mrs. Potts – Cabriela Rae Garza
Chip – Alexa Strubhart/George Gutierrez
Madame Dresser – Ellie Palacios
De Lune – Jorge Gonzales
Silly Girl #1 – Nativity Poe
Silly Girl #2 – Cadee Velasquez
Silly Girl #3 – Gabriella Celine Garza/Aaron Blount
Enchantress – McKenna Burns
Young Prince – Kole Kibler
Understudy (Cogsworth) – Devin Claudio
WHAT: Beauty and the Beast
WHERE: Harlingen CISD Performing Arts Center, 1217 Wilson Road
WHEN: Jan. 18 at 7 p.m., Jan. 19 at 2:30 p.m., Jan. 25 at 2:30 p.m. and Jan. 26 at 2:30 p.m.
ADMISSION: $15 for general admission, $10 for students