Sumptuous spectacular lifts our spirits as students bounce back from pandemic

RIPON Grammar School students are singing the praises of returning to the stage to perform together in a spectacular musical following two years of Covid restrictions.

Around 100 students, aged 11 to 18, have come together to put on a sensational production of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast over four nights.

Director of music Michael Barker said students were thrilled to be involved in such a large-scale event after a two-year gap: “Students are bringing a lot of energy to the stage, as well as a renewed sense of community after the impact of the pandemic.”

A much-loved favourite, Beauty and the Beast may well be a tale as old as time but, in the hands of RGS students, it’s infused with their unique 21st century energy.

“The costumes and set are amazing. We have a really talented cast and there are lots of big numbers with so many students taking part – everyone is so enthusiastic,” added Mr Barker.

In addition to the cast of actors, singers and dancers, 24 students will be performing in the live orchestra and 17 are responsible for lighting, props, stage management, make-up and costumes.

The musical tells the story of the beautiful, bookish Belle who trades her liberty for that of her father when she agrees to take his place as the prisoner of a great Beast who, in reality, is a bewitched prince.

“It’s a show most students have grown up with, so it’s very popular and most people know it well. It’s sure to lift everyone’s spirits,” said Mr Barker.

Neive Zenner, who shares the role of Belle with Tehya Sutton, is particularly enjoying working with a live 24-piece orchestra: "It is definitely the highlight of our school year, especially since this is my last."

The 18-year-old, from outside Ripon, added: "Everyone is really excited, especially the younger students who haven't had the chance to do something like this before."

Tehya, 17, from Ripon, agreed: "It's fantastic to finally perform after nearly two years of being unable to. I'm happy to be leaving on a high note of getting the lead role in my last year."

Tristan Paris, who plays Gaston, an arrogant egotist who has his sights set on marrying Belle, said being a part of such a major production was a tremendous experience: “It will be a relief to finally see our hard efforts come to fruition, and give me a lasting memory of my last major performance at RGS.”

The 18-year-old, from Ripon, added: “With all the misery of Covid and its consequences, while there's certainly a pressure to be the best now more than ever, it will just be nice to finally have the smaller pieces of normal life at RGS back in place.”

Huge congratulations to all involved (see full cast list below) and especially to director Mr Barker, musical director Mrs Morpeth and choreographer Mrs Levahn.

*Beauty and the Beast, Ripon Grammar School main hall, Tuesday March 22 to Friday March 25, 7.30pm. Tel 01765 602647 to reserve tickets

Let's hear it for the orchestra...

...and the backstage crew