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Disney classic to be director’s swan song

Published: Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014 4:06 p.m. CDT
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(Photo by Erica Benson-ebenson@shawmedia.com)
Hinsdale Central "Beauty and the Beast" Director Christine Hicks works with her students during rehearsal Feb. 6. The play begins March 13.

HINSDALE – Just like the characters who live together in the fictional castle, Hinsdale Central’s cast of “Beauty and the Beast” is much like a family themselves whether it’s the students who embody the musical or the director who brings it all together.

“This year, it’s been a cast of my friends, which is really cool,” said senior Yianni Kinnas of Burr Ridge, who is playing the beast. “I have friends in the ensemble, too, but all the people who got lead roles are people I’ve grown up with here at Hinsdale Central.”

After casting in November and starting rehearsals shortly after winter break, Hinsdale Central High School will present its first rendition “Beauty and the Beast” on March 13. The cast will present four shows between March 13 and 16.

For director Christine Hicks, the final curtain will be a bitter sweet moment as it will mark her last time directing plays and musicals at the high school. Hicks, who has directed 65 shows for 30 years at the high school, plans to retire at the end of the school year.

“I think there’s something really wonderful about filling an auditorium with people of all ages, and the look on kids’ faces when they see these stories come to life,” Hicks said.

Senior Jack Cherry has done three musicals at the high school – all under Hicks’ direction – and explained that Hicks has been an amazing leader within the school’s thespian community.

“She’s done so much for the school and everything from the drama club has risen from her,” said Cherry, who is playing Gaston. “Just to be with her on her way out is so cool; she’s someone I respect so much.”

However, Hicks’ influence goes beyond the stage and into the classroom, as she is not only retiring from directing, but she also is stepping down from her position as Hinsdale Central’s English teacher.

“In her class last year, I really grew as a writer and I connected with her while working on my essays,” said senior Sarah Hansen, who will play Belle.

For the first time in recent memory, the show will be double cast with two female leads, as Hansen and senior Gabrielle Roberts will each play Bell in two of the four performance. Other leading parts were similarly cast with two students.

Hicks said that she used this approached because she wanted to utilize all the talented individuals in main roles.

“The moment we found out I called [Hansen] and we screamed on the phone for about five minutes,” said Roberts.

Hansen and Roberts have each done four musicals with Hicks and have worked with several leading members of “Beauty and the Beast” before.

Senior Cooper Orler of Hinsdale said this will be his second musical and first time playing a main character. While he’s put much of his free time into the show, he said it’s been “a lot of fun” and a rewarding experience.

“I love it because all the people I hang out with are all the people in the musical,” said Orler, who plays Lumière. “Even though I’m here for rehearsal I’m spending these three hours with my friends too.”

With so many things to take care of the before opening night, Hicks has made no retirement plans and said that it hasn’t hit her that “Beauty and the Beast” will be her final show.

She added that she still gets the same joy from seeing the costumes, watching the kids’ enjoyment and being there as the production comes together from the first rehearsal to the last.

“I think the kids are just great and I do appreciate all the staff that works so hard,” Hicks said. “Without the music teacher, without the choreographer, set designer, orchestra, it wouldn’t be the same show. They’re all wonderful people to work with.”

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