A Look Inside of Mendham’s Upcoming Spring Musical, Beauty and the Beast


©Buena Vista Pictures/Courtesy

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, Beast, Belle, 1991

Adeline Perkins, Freelance Writer

The 1991 Beauty and the Beast animated film consisted of 7,000 feet of hand drawn film, 1,100 painted backdrops, and 150,000 individual frames. It was also the first animated film to reach the $100 million box office mark. And now, this classic tale will be coming to Mendham with the Mendham Players’ musical rendition March 10-12th. I spoke with Mr. Barthel, the staff director of the musical, to get some insider information about the upcoming production.

Why was Beauty and the Beast selected as the spring musical? Mendham Players love a challenge. That’s why, Mr. Barthel explained, Beauty and the Beast was such a great choice. It presents challenges both on the technical side (for example, the crew has to create enchanted objects) and the performing side (like the impressionable number “Be Our Guest”), which makes for an exciting learning experience for the student performers and set designers. “It’s not the outcome, it’s the journey,” Mr. Barthel stated. On another note, 2022 is largely a year about reconnecting with ourselves and others. Beauty and the Beast is “one of those classic, feel-good love stories” we all have memories associated with and can connect to, and Mendham Players feels it will help bring the school together at a time when COVID still keeps things from being completely normal.

Currently, what stage of the production process is the program at? As February begins, the Mendham Players are working on sketching and building the musical through staging. This means that they are building their characters through blocking, positioning, singing, and choreography. The other large part of the production process is the construction of the set; this will be the largest set the program has ever attempted. As of now, the framework of the West Wing of the castle has been completed and the crew is working on adding some surprises to make the set even more engaging.

Will the school musical differ at all from the movie? In their production of Beauty and the Beast, Mendham Players wants to “build and create something new that still pays homage to the original” according to Mr. Barthel. By “the original” Mr. Barthel means the 1991 animated film, and he wants to make sure this rendition is “as engaging and realistic as possible” and brings to life the enchanted magic of the film. For instance, a talented seamstress is making sure Belle’s three ball gowns are enchanting and magical-looking. Mendham Players is even borrowing some costumes from professional theaters to bring the magic of the story to life. But the musical will also add something that the film wasn’t able to. Have you ever wondered where the Beast’s castle is in relation to everything else? Or more importantly, why does Belle stay with the Beast when there are multiple opportunities for her to leave? The musical aims to fill in some of those holes in the audience’s understanding and will develop Belle and the Beast’s relationship a little more fully.

Is COVID going to affect how the play is produced? There are always challenges in show business, and there have always been challenges that the Mendham Players have had to face with every performance they’ve ever done. “My thing always is: we’ve figured it out every year so far and we’ll figure it out again,” says Mr. Barthel. He is hopeful that the play will be produced with minor disruptions, but Mendham Players has already had to deal with COVID-related challenges such as student actors missing rehearsals due to quarantine protocols. Basically, COVID is affecting the play every day. But the Mendham Players are adapting and working as hard as ever to create a magical show despite the challenges they face, which will make opening night all the more special.

What is Mr. Barthel’s favorite part of the show? Without hesitation, Mr. Barthel replied that his favorite part of any musical or play is the process, which he believes is more important than the performance at the end. He loves working with the performers and stage crew every day and watching them grow their talents in acting, designing, and marketing. Also, Mr. Barthel has a lot of personal history with Beauty and the Beast. It was the first show he saw on Broadway and his first ever leading-role was the Beast in a high school production. Later on, he played Gaston in a semi-professional production and has auditioned for the Beauty and the Beast Broadway National Tour twice. He has always wanted to direct Beauty and the Beast and is grateful that the talent of Mendham Players has made that dream possible. Mr. Barthel and the entirety of the program are excited to perform this “beast of a show” and can’t wait for everyone to come out and see it in March!