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Draper Journal

St. John students to perform ‘Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, Jr.’

Feb 22, 2022 08:26PM ● By Julie Slama

St. John the Baptist student Sasha Bugay, who plays Belle, rehearses the opening scene of “Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, Jr.” (Photo courtesy of St. John the Baptist)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

Fifty-two third- through eighth-grade St. John the Baptist students will take the stage to present “Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, Jr.” this month.

The show will be held on Friday, March 11 at 7 p.m. in the Juan Diego Catholic High auditorium, 300 E. 11800 South. The show is free, however canned food donations are being collected to donate to Catholic Community Services.

The show features Sasha Bugay as Belle; Ava Tota as the Beast; Parker Stolz as Gaston; Amelia Chiazzese as Maurice; Jameson Wigton as Lefou; Biankah Arostegui as the enchantress; Dylan Orega as Cogsworth; Mack Kessler as Lumiere; Sienna Wheeler as Mrs. Potts; and Morgan Hunter as Chip.

It’s the first show since the COVID-19 pandemic hit and the fifth musical performed by the students.

“We used to run two programs (one in the elementary and one in the junior high), but when COVID hit, we took a break and brought it back this year because there was such a high demand of kids wanting to get back into theatre and perform,” said St. John curriculum and faculty development director Gina Parker, who is joined directing by literacy team member Monica Bathurst and second-grade teacher Andrea Arnold.

Students auditioned in early September with a memorized monologue and 45 minutes of singing a song from the show. Ninety-minute weekly rehearsals began in the middle of the month and recently, a second day of practice each week was added.

“They’ve gained so much confidence performing and speaking in front of others. It’s been amazing. Some were so shy when they auditioned and could hardly speak, let alone sing in front of you. Now there’s a whole different person, they’re singing, they joke, they use inflection in their voices, they have eye contact. It’s been fun to see their confidence grow,” Parker said.

What they practice has carried over into the classroom as students are reading with inflection and being confident in the oral presentations.

“They’re also learning to read music and listen for timing, different tones and beats in the songs,” Parker said. “They’re working together as a team and that’s huge, supporting each other.”

Parker started teaching at another Catholic school 13 years ago and got into theater from a co-worker when they directed a kindergarten Christmas play. When she came to St. John, Parker began directing “The Polar Express” play. Eventually, she began the school drama club.

“We began with ‘Seussical’ because Dr. Seuss has everything a little whimsical and crazy so I knew if it wasn’t perfect, that it would come out, but the characters would be just fine,” she said. “It just grew in the interest of the kids and parents.”

Since then, students have performed “Shrek the Musical, Jr.,” “Elf the Musical, Jr.,” “Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka, Jr.” The show, “Disney’s 101 Dalmatians Kids,” was to be performed when the response to COVID-19 closed schools.