When Caitlyn Varwig was 4 years old, she watched Beauty and the Beast for the first time.
"I always wanted to be Belle," said Caitlyn, a junior at Bowsher High School, after she danced a few steps on stage, being careful not to step on the hem of her fanciful gold gown.
In one of those Disney dreams-do-come-true things, she got her wish, and is in rehearsal for her role as Belle in the upcoming presentation of Beauty and the Beast at Bowsher. Senior Scott McGorty described the show as the most lavishly costumed, biggest musical production ever put on in Toledo Public Schools.
"It is going to be a fabulous show," said Scott, who plans to major in dramatic arts and marketing management at the University of Toledo. He is in charge of marketing and public relations for the musical.
As the cast gathered for a recent rehearsal, Scott showed off the elaborate costumes that rent for $7,500. The show's total will run more than $16,000, with nearly all expenses covered by ticket sales, patron ads, and sponsorships.
"It is a communitywide production," Scott said, and the show has received communitywide support.
As the musical's producer, Karin Giffin, Bowsher's director of vocal music, receives a stipend from TPS, but other positions, such as orchestra director, choreographer, or set builder, gets no supplemental pay, which means financial support must be raised too, she said.
This marks the first time that a Disney show, and one of this magnitude, has been performed in a Toledo Public School, Mrs. Giffin said.
She chose Beauty and the Beast because the roles match the students' talent. "We have the kids for it. We have the personnel, and this is the one we need to do this year."
The cast of 45 includes many male performers. "It's a heavy guy show," Mrs. Giffin said, and the guys playing key parts include Jordan Gregory as Gaston; Paul Seabold as Lumiere; Andrew Keller as Cogsworth, and Steven Finelli as Maurice.
Matt Schermbeck, a junior who is to play the Beast, said it's "pretty fantastic" to play his favorite role in the Disney production.
Students said the musical couldn't have been staged in such a professional manner at the old Bowsher school, and they said they are thankful to taxpayers for supporting the new facility's construction.
The first musical in the new auditorium was Oklahoma! last year. The $36.1 million school, which opened in the fall of 2008, has a state-of-the-art theater area, with dressing rooms and storage areas for sets, props, and costumes.
"We love it," Caitlyn said, looking around the 750-seat auditorium. "The lighting system, the sound system, it is all amazing. I cried when I first walked in here."
Added Scott: "This is a magnificent school. We want people to know there is a huge gem here in South Toledo."
And too, he said, the school has such great talent. Band, orchestra, and choir members are "very good at what they do. They can act, sing, and dance."
Music department students will perform near Broadway next month during a trip from April 21-24, Scott said, but before the bright lights of New York, the show must go on.
Beauty and the Beast will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and at 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Tickets will be available at the door at the school, 2200 Arlington Ave.
Last week crews finished sets, and students rehearsed in costume, including some of the castle's enchanted kitchen items - an oven mitt, a cookie jar, measuring spoons - that will sing and dance. Scott plays a cheese grater. Expect dancing plates, he said, as student Emerencia Dudas, in costume, passed by. Not plates, she said. "Fine china."
Stephanie Bissonette, who plays Chip, will sit in a tea cart and poke out with an oversized, chipped teacup on her head, Scott noted.
And yes, there will be a magic rose, and petals will drop as time runs out for the Beast.
The show centers on Belle, who is imprisoned by the Beast in his castle. The Beast is really a prince under a spell, and to break it, he must learn to love another and earn love in return before the last petal from his enchanted rose falls.