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C.J. Ramsey (the Beast) and Zach Herman (Gaston), middle, act out a fight scene while Jouse Rivera (Cogsworth), Ryan O’Dell (Lumière), Sierra Schwabach (Mrs. Potts) and Emma Slotabec (Belle) watch.
Sarasota Thursday, Apr. 7, 2011 6 years ago

Middle-school drama takes center stage

by: Loren Mayo Black Tie Editor

It’s near the end of Sarasota School of Arts and Sciences’ “Beauty and the Beast” musical rehearsal Tuesday, April 5. Zach Herman, who plays Gaston, and the Beast, played by his best friend, C.J. Ramsey, are getting ready to practice their fight scene.

“Today’s the day he gets to stab me,” says C.J., who comes off more as a cute teddy-bear-of-a-kid than a beast. “He’s been looking forward to this all year.”

The moment Zach scored the role of Gaston, he dropped into a push-up position.

The push-ups, which have become routine during rehearsals whenever Zach has downtime, started when SSAS theater Director Mickey Stone threatened to add fake muscles to Zach’s Gaston costume.

Outside the drama room, Zach is marching around in the dirt, wearing imaginary boots and barely avoiding puddles from the morning rainstorm. His Gaston voice thunders across the school’s campus.

“I bet he wishes he could talk like that all the time,” says Emma Slotabec, who plays Belle. “His voice is like ‘boom!’ Perfect.”

Zach’s girlfriend, Sierra Schwabach, stifles a giggle every time he breaks into character.

“The very first day, we found Gaston — I mean Zach! — talking about the part on Facebook,” says Sierra, who plays Mrs. Potts in the show. “Every time Zach does something better than someone else, he says, ‘No one does this better than Gaston!’’”

Although he’s forced to hold his arms in 90-degree angles every time he’s on stage, Ryan O’Dell says he’s pretty similar to his character, “Lumière,” minus the French accent, of course.

“I’m kind of like the person who runs everything in the castle,” he explains. “I’m French, and the French accent is not easy to do. When I meet Belle, I have to say, ‘Enchanté, mademoiselle,’ and kiss her hand.
When I rehearsed it, Mr. Stone said it was too much, and I had to tone it down. I watched ‘Pink Panther’ just to get a feel of how he did it.”

As Gaston circles back to the group, the Beast grabs him in a mock choke-hold. Cogsworth, Lumière, Mrs. Potts and Belle flail their arms in the air and cry out in terror.

End scene.

Contact Loren Mayo at [email protected]

Tickets are $10 for adults and $8 for students and can be purchased at the SSAS campus, 645 Central Ave., or online at


+ Beast — C.J. Ramsey
“I thought the Beast would be fun to play, because he’s the complete opposite of what I’m used to. My ideal character is somebody who is nice, like me, and loves to read. The Beast can’t read at all — Belle actually teaches him to read in the story.”

+ Belle — Emma Slotabec
“Nobody talks to or gets her, so she reads to get away from the still life she lives. I don’t read and she reads constantly, so it’s kind of fun to switch into that mindset. With the Beast, it’s going to be really exciting when he gets his costume.”

+ Gaston — Zach Herman
“I literally marched around the school singing ‘Gaston’ the day I found out I was Gaston. I watched the movie seven times over Christmas to get the walk, voice and characterization to make sure I had it down that he’s a complete jerk.”

+ Mrs. Potts — Sierra Schwabach
“My character is supposed to be this motherly type because of her son, Chip, but most people don’t look at me and see a cabinet full of children. I spent four days watching ‘Harry Potter’ trying to master the British accent.”


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