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Rachel Jensen, playing Belle, and Brad Olson, the Beast, are among 43 Bemidji High School students who will perform in “Beauty and the Beast” this week. As many as 20 other students are involved backstage and 10 in the pit orchestra. Performances will be at 7 p.m. Thursday through Saturday at the BHS Auditorium. Tickets are $6 for adults and $3 for students. Monte Draper | Bemidji Pioneer

Tale as old as time… BHS students to present ‘Beauty and the Beast’

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BEMIDJI — Three years ago, Rachel Jensen and Brad Olson were dancing partners in Bemidji High School’s production of "Footloose."

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They’re back together again, this time in the lead roles of "Beauty and the Beast."

"It’s a really dynamic show," said Olson, who plays the Beast opposite Jensen’s Belle in this year’s musical production. "You have ‘Be Our Guest’ which is this huge, in-your-face sort of song that keeps going and going and then there’s also really tender moments, those soft singing solos with just one person on stage."

As many as 75 students are involved in the show, with 43 students filling out the cast, 15-20 backstage, and eight to 10 in the pit orchestra.

"It is sounding wonderful," said Holly Nelson, a special-education teacher at BHS who, after serving as assistant director, is directing her first Bemidji production. "The talent on our stage is amazing. Amazing."

The show will be performed this week at 7 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday in the BHS Auditorium. Tickets are $6 for adults and $3 for students.

"The show is reaching a whole new level now," Jensen said late last week, as costumes arrived and sets came together. "Every time we come to practice now, there’s something new and it’s like, ‘Oh, yeah, this is really coming together now.’"

Nelson said the director team — consisting of herself; Ashley Sands, musical director; Derek Wickum, pit orchestra director; Gregg Wilimek, set designer; and Josh Peterson, tech director — examined the strengths and weaknesses of the expected returners and noted fewer young men were expected to return this year.

"This particular play has a lot of appeal from the young and old, and we had a lot of flexibility with casting," Nelson said.

Roles were assigned last spring and set construction began in mid-July.

"It’s fun, it’s been good times," said junior Anthony Boe, a first-time performer who plays a bookseller as well as one of Gaston’s cronies and is also in the ensemble. "I like seeing everyone working together to make the play what it is."

Nelson, whose undergraduate degree is in band, said she greatly enjoys the creativity of directing.

"I’m loving it. I love the music and the creativity of it, but more than that, I love the life skills that I have the opportunity to share with the kids and that’s much bigger than any production," she said. "I hope that is more apparent than anything, the high-quality character of the people who are on the stage."

Bemidji High School is one of 67 schools participating in the Hennepin Theatre Trust’s SpotLight Musical Theatre Program, which honors excellence in high school theater.

That program also promotes community involvement. This year, BHS students have taken on a range of community-service projects from serving and entertaining at the Bemidji Soup Kitchen to raising funds for the American Cancer Society.

"Using your skills and talents to better your community is a piece of that (SpotLight program)," Nelson said.

Jensen noted they also performed at Nielson Place and the residents there greatly enjoyed their songs.

"Not only does it spread the word more and maybe get more people to come to the shows, but it also gives us a chance to perform to people who otherwise maybe would not be able to hear them," Olson said. "That’s what makes it all worthwhile.

"You know, there’s times when you’re like, ‘Oh not practice again,’ but then, when you see stuff like that (the nursing home residents’ reactions), it’s like, ‘Yeah, that why I do this.’"

Cast

Hannah Allen, Madame De La Grande Bouche

Jaxon Anderson, young man (Chip understudy)

Brooke Bannor, ensemble

Anthony Boe, ensemble

MacKenzie Degelder, LeFou

Zach Erickson, narrator/ensemble

Isaac Fagerstrom, ensemble (Gaston understudy)

Abby Fettig, ensemble

Hannah Fletcher, Cogsworth

Shelby Belanger, napkin

Emily Quello, napkin

Carly Fuhrman, ensemble

Emma Grund, ensemble (Coggsworth understudy)

Ben Hodgson, ensemble

Sage Hovet, silly girl

Fisher Jambor, ensemble (Beast understudy)

Rachel Jensen, Belle

Haley Julin, ensemble

Sophia Jurek, ensemble

Didu Keddah, Lumiere

Matt Kindem, Gaston

Tyra Langhout, napkin

Jameel Marshall, ensemble (Gaston understudy)

Kailee Martens, ensemble

Tate Martinson, ensemble (Maurice understudy)

Jayci McCrory, ensemble

Erin Morrison, ensemble

Anna Muller, Babette

Emma Muller, ensemble

Sarah Nemgar, Carpet/ensemble

Bradley Olson, Beast

Amber Rassler, Madame D’Arque

Jaydee Reandeau, ensemble

Lillian Revering, ensemble

Delaney Rietveld, silly girl

Susannah Roed, silly girl

Garret Schwindt, ensemble

Jalen Shegrud, Maurice

Elle Sherman, ensemble (Potts understudy)

Libby Sorenson, Mrs. Potts

Cassidy Stokes, beggar woman/ensemble

Lauren Weaver, ensemble

James Will, Chip

Stage crew

Ashdyn Blomberg

Riley Bresina

Madison Britton

Katelynn Eischens

Brent Ekstrom

Kelsi Fredrickson

Morgan Hadrava, costumer

Nicole Jensen

Stevie Klaven

Sydney Kurtzweg

Michelle LaMoure

Cassie Larson

Allison Palmer

Amber Pauna, assistant stage manager

Katie Peterson

Ellie Prewie

California Thorson, head costumer

Ariel Tix. stage manager

Pit orchestra

Sophia Wisdom, flute

Samantha Korczak, clarinet

Mackenzie Thuneman, soprano sax

Tony Turner, trumpet

Erin Jones, French horn

Arlo Baratono, euphonium

Megan Kessler, piano

Jonah Snyder, synthesizer

Morgan Miller, strings

John McKeown, bass

Chris Peske, percussion

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