by Bruce Strand, Arts editor
The audience packed into Zimmerman High School’s small “cafetoreum” rose for a standing ovation upon completion of the third and final performance of the spring musical “Beauty and the Beast” on Sunday afternoon.
Watching from up very close, the crowd clearly enjoyed ZHS’s rendition of this tale of an unlikely romance where love conquers all, under direction of Jon Paleshewski, assisted by Laura Berghuis.
Freshman Olivia Hanson played the lead role of the bookish dreamer Belle with natural charm and the poise of the eight-year stage veteran she is (including Elk River Community Theatre, and Anoka’s arts middle school). Joey Briggs, a junior, sensitively played the Beast, actually a prince under a cruel curse, whose anger is turned to anguish and longing when Belle enters his life while searching for her father in the deep woods.
Ryan Olson plays the town dreamboat Gaston with the conceit and swagger required. All the gals adore Gaston except the one he really wants, as Belle sends him packing. Still smarting weeks later, Gaston finds and attacks the Beast, trying to win her back, and the two actors must depict a fight to the death that hushes the crowd.
There was much gaiety, dancing, and humor as well, with some hilarious costumes.
Besides Olson, two other seniors finishing strong ZHS theatre careers were Carly Nelson as Mrs. Potts, a member of the Beast’s household who’s turned into a pot (until they can all be made human again when he finds love), and Vince Snyder, in his usual role as an unsavory type (Monsieur D’Arque) who helps Gaston launch a devious plot.
One final note: Paleshewski says he hopes local voters will say “yes” when asked if an auditorium should be included in an upcoming referendum.