Wednesday July 4, 2012

PITTSFIELD -- For the young cast and crew members of Barrington Stage Company’s production of Disney’s "Beauty and the Beast," it’s going to be a transformational summer.

It started on Saturday, when the cast of 17 met each other for the first time, half of them new to the company’s Professional Youth Theatre program.

Today, atop a 43-foot-long float, they will perform a song and a dance medley routine they’ve learned over the past few days for a crowd of thousands at the Pittsfield Fourth of July Parade.

Next, they’ll continue to rehearse for the show, which opens for previews on July 25 on the stage of the approximately 250-seat theater at Berkshire Museum.

"This year, with the new space, it’s a great community venue to top off with a great show for the community which any person can relate to," said cast member Jake Smerechniak, 16, of Sheffield.

Joey Labrasca, 14, of Lee, said the show was a good pick to share with people of all ages.

"The underlying message goes back to so many of the same fundamentals that parents teach you, like ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ and ‘love can change people.’"

To be a part of the annual Barrington Stage Youth Theatre production, a young person has to pass auditions. They must also sign a contract to be paid, and work and perform through a rigorous schedule. This year, the teenagers will perform July 25 through Aug. 12.

On Tuesday afternoon, the cast and crew did some professional development by meeting with two men who grew up to become professionals in the theater industry. Both are current actors in Barrington Stage productions who have also previously performed in Broadway productions of "Beauty and the Beast."

Gordon Stanley was cast for four years in the enchanted musical, known for portraying D’Arque, but also filling in for Cogsworth, Maurice and Lu miere; he also did some voice work for the animated Disney film. Jeff McCarthy starred as the Beast for 21Ž2 years.

The students posed questions to the actors, from how to maintain vocal strength th rough a long, straight run of performances to being a successful professional in the field.

"If you can do anything else, you probably should unless it makes you miserable not to do this," said Stanley of the theater business. He warned the young actors of the competitiveness of the industry’s job market.

He then told students still interested in pursuing a theater or acting career to "develop as many skills as you can," from playing an instrument to dancing to technical skills.

For Caroline Fairweather, 13, of Pittsfield, acting has always been a dream, and this summer is her first chance to do a professional show.

"It’s one thing to dream about something, but it’s another thing to do something about it," she said.

To reach Jenn Smith:
jsmith@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6239
On Twitter: @JennSmith_Ink