Not Quite a Village Person
“We’ve had a few accidental solos,” Inly mom Shannon Wilson confessed to me. We were chatting in the Meehan Family Artsbarn at Inly School during a pause in rehearsal for Beauty and the Beast, in which Shannon plays a Silly Girl villager.
As an Inly Player in Annie (2008), Oliver! (2009), and The Wizard of Oz (2010), I am a veteran of the dreaded accidental solo—which occurs during the big choral numbers when one comes in a little too early or holds a phrase a little too late.
During Oz my most spectacular accidental solo was really a duet because I was following Inly parent Gigi Meehan (who also plays a Silly Girl in Beast). After that little incident I switched and took my queues from Inly Middle School teacher Melissa Vidal-MacKay, which was so much easier than learning my part.
(Later Gigi explained that the whole mess happened because she was following me, so I clued her in on the Melissa deal and everything got lots better until Melissa blew it, but we pinned that on her Middle School colleague Paran Quigley.)
Scheduling conflicts kept me out of the show this year, and I miss everyone. I admit that when I stopped in on the Beast rehearsal I was hoping to find the Inly Players in shambles, sobbing over my absence but in fact quite the opposite happened.
“We have a huge cast!” said choreographer Colleen Quinn. “It’s great. I didn’t realize it because I worked with the mansion and village ensembles separately. But at the end there’s the big battle scene between them and that was when it hit me: this is a lot of people.”
“How did you make room for them all in the scene?” I asked.
“We figured one half the mansion people immediately get freaked out and run away,” she said.
This I had to see. So I climbed up into the balcony where I had a great view of what basically amounted to a battalion of Inly faculty and parents shrieking down the platform toward a group of students who were so totally excited that they get to riot right there in the Artsbarn.
In the middle of it all Colleen did this awesome Kung Fu Panda move which made me laugh out loud. Unfortunately, it was timed with a sudden lull in the action which left me guffawing inappropriately from the balcony into the silence below and thinking, “How is it I managed an accidental solo when I’m not even in the show?”
While the riot certainly is one challenge in the staging of this production it isn’t the, er…biggest.
“I don’t fit through the door,” confesses Inly parent Lori Batta. She and the other members of the mansion ensemble play the house staff who are enchanted into objects. Lori is the singing wardrobe.
Interestingly, her costume looks just about the way you’d expect a wearable chest of drawers to look—with all the complications.
“I can’t get through the connector door with it on. Not even sideways.”
The connector door is important because it’s the way off stage and back to the classroom where we eat candy and argue the finer points of People magazine.
“But…Lori. Where do you go when you’re not on stage?”
She points to the Artsbarn entryway, which for big shows is traditionally covered in black and used for short entrances and exits.
“There,” she says. “I just hang out in there.”
“Oh, Honey. Can I bring you a book or something?”
“No. Just. You know. Pray I don’t fall over.”
Lori is not the only one with challenges.
“It didn’t occur to us until we had our costumes on that we couldn’t see our feet,” Head of School Donna Milani Luther said. She plays Mrs. Potts, the enchanted teapot.
“Paul Antico and I were tripping on the stairs. It was a riot,” she said.
Paul, Inly parent and president of the Board of Trustees, plays Cogsworth, the animated clock who is the head of Beast’s castle household. To solve the foot problem, Paul decided to rig an old pair of sunglasses with a little mirror reflecting floorward.
“It was very clever,” Donna said. “Of course, I thought maybe we could just practice in our costumes until we don’t need to see our feet.”
“Oh, what a good idea!” I said. “I just would have suggested he follow Gigi Meehan.”
“The worst part,” Tina Morris confided, “is that if one of the mansion objects falls over, the rest of them can’t help.” Her son, Inly middle schooler Mac Morris, plays Lumiere, the animated candelabra. “Mac’s got candles on his hands. And do you know Donna’s spout is made from a shoe? Who’s she going to help with a shoe on her fist?”
“So do you have a plan in case you trip?” I asked Paul.
“Of course,” he said.
“A crane? A lift of some sort? Tina Morris in the audience primed to haul you up?”
“A joke!” he said. “Four of them, actually.”
Then he told me his jokes. They’re very funny. If he ‘awkward turtles’ it on your night, you’ll laugh.
So the cast and crew ramp it up for the last week of rehearsals going into the big production weekend. I’ve gotten a good sneak peek and it’s a great show. Inly’s Spanish teacher Denni Edlund is Belle, former WBZ TV-4 morning anchor, local actor Scott Wahle is our Beast, and Jim Quinn and Andy Zildjian play Maurice and Gaston, respectively.
And Paul’s jokes really are funny, so even if he falls, it’s going to be great.
—E.S. is an Inly parent, blogger, and college instructor. She is closely related to an adorable enchanted spoon who apparently is too chicken to riot properly.
Inly School invites all those who love a good fairy tale to “Be Our Guest” at our fifth annual big musical production, Disney’s Beauty and the Beast on February 11, 12, and 13. This production is brought to you by Inly School and W.B. Mason and features The Inly Players—a troupe of actors connected to the Inly community comprised of faculty, staff members, parents, trustees, students in grade 3 and up, and friends of Inly, who enjoy the collaborative process of putting on a show. Ticket and show information can be found at www.inlyschool.org/beauty-and-the-beast.