Arts & Entertainment

Be Our Guest: Yorktown Stage Kids Serve up Disney’s Beloved Classic

Gaston (Matthew Harmon, Corrlandt Manor) tries to convince a skeptical Belle (Samantha Miley, Yorktown) of the importance of outward beauty. Credits: August Abatecola

YORKTOWN, N.Y. – Twenty-six years after Disney released its animated retelling of the 18th-century French fairy tale, Beauty & the Beast continues to draw audiences to its musical tale of tolerance and enchantment.

Incarnations as a Broadway musical, ice-capade, and interactive Disneyworld experience are not enough to satisfy fans’ enthusiasm—next month marks the highly anticipated premiere of the studio’s live-action version of the film. Luckily for Yorktown residents, however, there’s no need to wait until mid-March for your fresh Beauty & the Beast fix; Yorktown Stage Kids (YSK) are bringing a true live-action version to the theater for four performances March 3-5.

The popularity of the musical, coupled with the theatrical training program’s stellar reputation, has drawn young performers from all over the county. Thirty-six students have come together—across grades and school districts—to portray the beloved characters they grew up with.

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“I will be playing Mrs. Potts in Beauty & the Beast Jr.,” said Mahopac Senior Gabby Paige, who first came to Yorktown Stage at age 7 as a summer camper, and has been with YSK since its inception. “I’m honored that I get to sing one of the most iconic songs from the show. Since I’m a senior this year, Beauty & the Beast Jr. is my last YSK show. Although it’s a bittersweet feeling, I know that no matter where I may go, I’ll never be far away from my second home.”

“Home,” it so happens, is the title of one of two songs in Beauty & the Beast Jr. that audiences may not recognize from the film. This contemplative solo—sung by Belle (Samantha Miley, Yorktown) upon being held captive in the Beast’s (Matthew Harmon, Cortlandt Manor) castle—as well as the jubilant ensemble number “Human Again,” add a little more musical meat and Broadway flair to the stage version.

When asked what technical flairs patrons can expect on stage to bring Beauty & the Beast Jr. to life, Artistic Director August Abatecola insisted smilingly, “It’s a surprise!” He did, however, allude to automation, and of course the transformative talents of resident Lighting Designer Andrew Gmoser.

Though Beauty & the Beast Jr.’s spectacle remains a secret, the talent of its teen cast does not, as Abatecola was all too eager to discuss. He and his co-captain, Choreographer Carrie Silvernail, go out of their way to highlight the distinct skills each student brings to the production.

“A lot of the kids from our Just Dance! program came out to audition for [Beauty], and we were excited to feature them where they’ve been working hard,” noted Silvernail. Indeed, a group of 11 students makes up an ensemble of featured dancers, while others hold down comedic bits throughout the show, such as in the first full-cast song, “Belle”.

Beneath the Disney seal, multi-faceted cast, and stage magic of Beauty & the Beast Jr. is of course its central caution against judging a book by its cover. The enchantment begins, after all, when the Prince turns a beggar woman from his door based solely on her haggard appearance. What a strong message for a teen cast and the young and young at heart who share in their theatrical story. With tickets just $20 and under, put our service to the test, and enjoy YSK’s new take on this family classic.

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