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The cast of North Londonderry Elementary School's "Beauty and the Beast" got into character at a rehearsal for next week's show. The play will take place at the Palace Theatre in Manchester on May 7. (APRIL GUILMET/Union Leader Correspondent)

'Beauty' worth beholding in Londonderry

LONDONDERRY - Producing a "tale as old as time" is no small undertaking, which explains why North Elementary School's upcoming production of "Beauty and the Beast" has been nearly a year in the making.

There's the colorful sets that look like they're right out of the 1991 Walt Disney animated film, not to mention the elaborate costumes that bring the beloved characters of Belle, the Beast, Cogsworth the clock, Lumiere the talking candelabra and Mrs. Potts to life onstage.

Teacher Nancy Rael, the play's creative director, said auditions for the show began shortly before the school year ended late last spring.

"It's been quite a process," she said.

Over 100 children have taken part in that process, Rael said, from the creators of the stage scenery to the actors and singers appearing on stage.

Dozens of parents, friends and staff members also lent their talents, sewing costumes and choreographing dance numbers, among other things.

Wearing a golden ball gown and elbow-length white gloves, fifth-grader Olivia Stowell appeared a natural choice for Belle, the lead character.

Stowell, who has appeared in several other school plays, said she's excited about her upcoming moment in the spotlight but noted it's been a very long process leading up to that day.

"There were a lot of lines to learn," she said.

Fellow fifth-grader Alex Metro will star opposite Stowell as the Beast.

Wearing an enormous, dreadlocked wig weighing several pounds and hairy, rubber hands, Metro admitted her costume was made for appearance rather than comfort.

"It's going to be pretty hot under those stage lights," she said.

Fifth-grader Jack Anderson, who portrays Belle's unwanted suitor Gaston, said he's having fun playing "the bad guy."

"It's pretty insane," said Anderson, his blue shirt padded with fake muscles.

Playing the part of the talking Wardrobe, Shannon Walen wore a bustled pink and black color-blocked dress decorated with knobs and accents.

"It's fun to sing all the songs," Walen said. "I just love to act."

The school's performance of "Beauty and the Beast" is scheduled for May 7 at 7 p.m. at the Palace Theatre in Manchester.


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