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School musical offers students new experiences

Byron Center — Ilaria Goria focuses on her classes at Byron Center High School during the day. After school, the Italian exchange student transforms into the French feather duster named “Babette” in preparation for the production of “Beauty and the Beast” at Van Singel Fine Arts Center. 

“Everything is new for me here, but I feel like I fit into the theater and have been enjoying the show,” Ilaria said. 

When asked how she gets herself into character for rehearsals, she said “I’m nothing like my character in the show, so I think what I would do and do the opposite.” 

Junior Alexandria Barbour said she blocked out every hour of her daily schedule to work around musical rehearsals. 

As the lead of the show, she said she has to stay organized to become Belle on stage.

Several students involved in the musical are also involved in sports, band, orchestra or choir, on top of their high-school course load. 

Junior Gianna Desgranges plays cello in the BCHS orchestra and sings in the choir. “The Beast,” aka senior Clinton Wierenga, also sings in the choir and was to travel out of state with BCHS’s Vocal Expression choir a week before opening night. 

“It’s less about fitting the musical into your schedule and more fitting your schedule around the musical,” said senior Brayde Kietzman, who plays Gaston. “You have to put a lot of time into it and it’s totally worth it.” 

Ticket Info:
Tickets for “Beauty and The Beast” are available on Van Singel’s website with performances at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 22 and Friday, Feb. 23, with two shows at 2 and 7 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 24.

Gaston’s right-hand man, Lefou, played by freshman Judson Phillips, compared his castmates to his teammates on the cross-country team. 

“I really do love having things planned out for me, and it correlates to cross-country,” he said. “You have to run no matter what and show up for your people.” 

Byron Center High School students starring in the winter production of ‘Beauty and the Beast’ at Van Singel Fine Arts Center

Michelle Wagner, the musical’s director and Van Singel Fine Arts Center’s new managing director, said she has witnessed cast members commit to their characters on stage, no matter what is going on off stage. 

“The story of ‘Beauty and the Beast’ is a journey of transformation, and the dedication from the cast is transforming them all into stronger performers,” Wagner said. “It’s beautiful to see them trust the process, work hard, support each other, and enjoy the season.” 

Read more from Byron Center: 
It takes a community to stage a musical
‘Artastic’ artistry awaits art admirers

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Alexis Stark
Alexis Stark
Alexis Stark is a reporter covering Byron Center, Caledonia, Godfrey-Lee, Kenowa Hills and Thornapple Kellogg. She grew up in metro Detroit and her journalism journey brought her west to Grand Rapids via Michigan State University where she covered features and campus news for The State News. She also co-authored three 100-question guides to increase understanding and awareness of various human identities, through the MSU School of Journalism. Following graduation, she worked as a beat reporter for The Ann Arbor News, covering stories on education, community, prison arts and poetry, before finding her calling in education reporting and landing at SNN. Alexis is also the author of a poetry chapbook, “Learning to Sleep in the Middle of the Bed.”


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