Beauty and the Beast
Adapted by Michele L. Vacca

Studio Playhouse
14 Alvin Place
Through Feb. 18, Saturday and Sundays, 1:30 and 3:30 p.m.
studioplayhouse.org, or 973-744-9752

By STEFANIE SEARS
For Montclair Local

The director of “Beauty and the Beast,” a Magic Trunk show, Studio’s series for children now playing at Studio Playhouse stage managed the autumn Magic Trunk show.

Beauty and the Beast director.
Mirit Skeen, a MHS sophomore, directes "Beauty and the Beast" at Studio Playhouse. COURTESY STUDIO PLAYERS
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In the green room, she cut the script down from 68 pages to just 38. The show she is directing is fully staffed by junior members of Studio Players, with cast and crew all under 18.

The script calls for up to 60 people, Skeen said. Without cuts, the show is two hours long, and Magic Trunk shows typically run less than an hour, so small children won’t have trouble sitting still for them. The current run time is about 55 minutes.

Adapted by Michele L. Vacca, “Beauty and the Beast” plays at Studio Playhouse the weekends of Feb. 10-18. This is Skeen’s first time directing a production and this particular show is produced entirely by the theater’s junior members.

Skeen’s past credits with Studio Players include performing and stage managing, and so back in April she was entrusted with this play.

The 16-year-old director said after a preview performance on Thursday that usually high school students direct the full junior shows, but that she is one of the younger ones who has taken on the directorial role solo.

“Doing it alone, I definitely took a lot more helm than some people in the past have done,” Skeen said. “I’ve seen people who work better as a team, have the mentor do a lot more work. I personally like to take charge of a lot of things. I might not be the youngest, but I think I’ve done most of the work. It’s been a fun time. It’s a lot of work to do as a kid, for sure.”

Skeen has included some background music in the play, but it is not a musical nor does it much resemble the well-known 1991 Disney version.

Skeen decided to incorporate influences from the 1946 French film “La Belle et la Bête” instead.

Belinda Bell (Annaliese Fagan) bemoans her life trapped at the Beast’s castle as the court’s minions (Benny Simon, Stella Simon, Ella Freund, Rayna Berlin and Noa Freund) think of ways to cheer her up. COURTESY JOHN FRAISSINET
Belinda Bell (Annaliese Fagan) bemoans her life trapped at the Beast’s castle as the court’s minions (Benny Simon, Stella Simon, Ella Freund, Rayna Berlin and Noa Freund) think of ways to cheer her up. COURTESY JOHN FRAISSINET
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Her young cast, consisting of 12 members ages 8 to 18, remained enthusiastic throughout the process, she said, but Skeen still faced some blocking challenges. The prince in the show, Phillip, increases taxes, and the ensemble mob reacts by walking across the stage and saying, “More taxes?! Do they think we’re made of money?! We can’t do this! We won’t pay! We can’t go on like this!”

Skeen said, “My personal favorite thing that took forever to get right was a tax mob of kids because I get to say, ‘Kids, be the irate tax mob again!’ It took us several full rehearsals just to get a good mob. But it looks good when it finally comes together. Seeing it all come together worked out really well.”