Ecker Hill Middle School students get into character for musical |

Ecker Hill Middle School students get into character for musical

(From left) Anna Diamond, Chloe Shewell, Caroline Waldmann and Stryder Larsen are four of the cast members of the Ecker Hill Middle School s production of Beauty and the Beast, Jr. With their live performances nearing, they say they are anxious for a live audience to see the fruits of their hard work. (Bubba Brown/Park Record)

The transformation is nearly complete for the Ecker Hill Middle School students cast in the school’s production of the musical "Beauty and the Beast, Jr."

Since September, the students have been memorizing their lines, perfecting choruses and preparing for opening night. With their performances, scheduled for Jan. 22 and Jan. 23, just weeks away, they are putting the finishing touches on a production that drama teacher Mary Morgan said has seen them "really grow and evolve as students and people."

"I like to see the kids working together and how they seem to almost form a family, in a sense," Morgan said. "They learn a lot from each other, and they learn how to get along in a group setting. I think they get a lot out of it."

Chloe Shewell, who plays Belle, also said it’s been fun to watch the cast grow into their roles. Students who at first were unsure of themselves have become some of the strongest members of the cast.

"In the very beginning, when we first started this, a lot of people weren’t sure of themselves," she said. "They were timid when they were singing or talking. But now, we’ve practiced a lot and everyone is more confident and better."

For Anna Diamond, who plays a "silly girl," getting the chance to pretend she’s another person has been the best part of being involved in the production. That’s why she auditioned for the play.

"It kind of just takes you away from this reality, and you get to step into a whole different place, where you get to be a new person with new problems and new characteristics," she said.

But playing characters known as well as those in "Beauty and the Beast" can also come with expectations. Caroline Waldmann, who plays an enchantress, the villain of the story, said the fact the musical is about a story many people know and love adds pressure to what is already a nerve-wracking experience.

"It’s kind of like you have something to live up to," she said. "It’s kind of scary because I know a lot of younger kids that will be coming, and they want Chloe to be, like, exactly like Belle. You have this expectation to live up to, and we’re kind of pressuring ourselves to live up to it. It’s kind of exciting, though."

Morgan added that the nerves are getting more frayed as the production nears, though everyone involved is excited about finally performing for a live audience.

"You always feel like you’re getting to the last crunch, which can be stressful," she said. "But it’s exciting to finally see it on stage, with the sets and the music together with it. We’re putting it all together, which is cool."

The students will put on two performances of the musical, on Jan. 22 and Jan. 23. The shows on both days begin at 6:30 p.m., and admission is $5 at the door.

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