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Fairytale story brought to the stage by youth theatre
BELLE is surely almost every little girl's favourite Disney character with her beauty and kind nature. So for Helen Hill from Marlow she was delighted when she bagged the lead in the Wycombe Swan Youth Theatre's production of Disney's Beauty and the Beast. Steve Clarke from Beaconsfield is playing The Beast, and when I spoke to the two he hadn't even seen his costume yet.
Often cited as the greatest love story of all time the Disney classic of Beauty and the Beast is coming to the stage in High Wycombe, brought to you by 250 of the most talented youngsters from the area and a professional production team.
Every year the Wycombe Swan's Summer Youth Project attracts hundreds of young performers and this year is no different. It will be the Swan's 20th Summer Youth Project and the show is put together in just two weeks.
It is Helen's fifth project and Steve's second. Helen, 17, said: "It is just fun to be in a show, especially with so many people.
"It's crazy how we can fit 200 plus people on stage. You get to know so many other people so there is a great social aspect."
In the auditions she was up against her best friend for the role of Belle, which she said was extremely nerve racking. She added: "It was quite a hard audition. I was so pleased when I found out I had got the role- it was general shock really."
And Steve was quite shocked when he found out who he was playing as initially the director, Matthew Dye, told him he was playing Belle. Soon after he told him the truth and he was delighted to learn he would play The Beast.
But he said, he is not sure how delighted he will be about the costume, which he has been measured for but not seen. "I am very nervous," he laughed.
The story is a traditional fairytale first published in France in the mid-18th century. It tells the story of a spoiled prince cursed by his own selfishness and turned into a hideous beast who stumbles upon a beautiful girl, who just so happens to be the only one who can possibly accept him and break the curse. With unforgettable numbers including Be Our Guest, Home, Beauty and the Beast and Human Again it is sure to get the audience singing.
When Walt Disney Pictures released the animated feature film Beauty and the Beast in 1991 with a score by composer Alan Menken and the late lyricist Howard Ashman, it was hailed as an instant classic with critics praising its songs worthy of a Broadway musical.
It was then made into a musical, with several new songs.
Helen said: "Belle has always been my favourite Disney character anyway."
And Steve, 19, has played Gaston, the baddie of the story, before but never The Beast. He said: "I have never played a serious character before. I get to go with my emotion as the Beast, and I am not actually that used to that."
And it is also a far cry from what Steve does for his "day job." He is currently studying a PE degree at the University of East Anglia, and he sees acting as just a hobby.
He said: "It is a huge change. I go from an environment at university with a lot of burly lads to the youth theatre, where guys are outnumbered five to one. There is a quite a different atmosphere."
Helen wants to go into performing and is at sixth form at an Arts Educational School in Chiswick.
And she said that audiences can expect "magic" from the show, which is produced by Mark Jones and choreographed by Chloe James.
The rest of the cast include Jenny Jones, Richard Edwards, Thomas Antoniw, Elysia Page, Kristian Price, Jonah Halton, Ben Rees, Georgina Bishop, Sammie Brain, Hayley White and Scott Brooks and features more than 230 young people in the ensemble and backstage technical crew
Steve added: "It is amazing. We have just finished choreographing Belle, the opening number. It looks amazing. The harmonies are amazing. Although I would love to be in the scene it is great to be able to watch it from the wings."
Beauty and the Beast is at The Wycombe Swan in St Mary Street from August 23- 25 at 7.30pm with Sat Matinee at 2.30pm and Sunday August 26 at 5.30pm. Tickets range from £11.50 to £15 from 01494 512000 or go to www.wycombeswan.co.uk.
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