Valley Performing Arts, The 31st Season… by Tamara Van Diest

Photo Courtesy of VPA

Valley Performing Arts, in Wasilla, continues to amaze the citizens of the Mat-Su Valley with its recent production of Beauty and the Beast. I heard about it through my music teacher at the beginning of the 2006 school year. Sadly, I couldn’t audition because of its running time: six weeks of performances.

The cast is made up of people from all parts of the Valley; many have to drive 45 minutes just to get to the theater. Beauty is played by Laura Arnold, a local voice and piano teacher. Her husband, Andy, plays opposite her as the Beast. These two are an amazing duo; Belle’s beauty combines with Beast’s ferocious looks to give the audience a thrilling night. The other characters have a range of ages, the youngest at six years old, the oldest at 62. Several cast members, returning actors and those brand new to the stage, doubled as townspeople and enchanted objects. Simple bakers and tavern-goers morphed into napkins, plates, spoons and even an oven mitt.

While the acting was good, the music was better.  Jennifer Dalby, a retired music teacher, was the music director of the production. The night was filled with beautiful harmony, marvelous solos and several full cast pieces. The costumes were similar to those in the Disney movie. Belle had a beautiful blue dress, and a lovely golden ball gown, Cogsworth, the talking clock, had a framed pendulum attached to his chest and Lumiere, the candlestick, was required to keep his arms in bent up L-shaped positions while holding lit candles the entire show. People from opposite ends of the Valley got together to design and sew these costumes, some on Lazy Mountain and others on the far end of Wasilla.

Though the Broadway-style musical was excellent, it’s not the only play/musical that VPA has performed impressively. Past performances include: Man of La Mancha, Gypsy, Annie, Fiddler on the Roof, The Sound of Music, and You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown. Into its 31st season, VPA has spellbound audiences since 1976.

Plays in the Valley are very popular, family events; Beauty and the Beast was almost entirely sold out two weeks before the performances started. People enjoy them and they are good for dates, family nights or just to get out.

Tamara Van Diest, (17), is a student at Palmer High School.