The community’s response, based on the initial sold-out ticket sales of 1,500 for the weekend, more than exceeded their expectations, according to Rudy Robles, producer of the musical and executive director of NoCCA.
“This was a big surprise, and that is in itself a tremendous, huge record for NoCCA,” Robles said. “The community responded really well to our production.”“We sold out before this week even started, so that was a big surprise. We opened up an additional 1,300 tickets. So, in total, there were about 2,300 tickets that we had opened,” he said.
Brawley resident Clyde Edgar said he attended the musical to support local performing artists and productions.
“I’m here to watch this fabulous performance because our Valley needs this kind of art to be brought back,” Edgar said. “The show was beautiful. There was a lot of practicing and training and time spent. And they needed a big audience to appreciate it and we were here to support them.”
To do that, Edgar brought along 19 family members to the show. And for good reason. He had a daughter and two granddaughters performing in the musical. His daughter, Bonnie Munguia, played the role of Sausage Curl Girl. His granddaughters, Luciana Munguia, played Chip, while her sister, Claire Munguia, took a role as one of the enchanted teacups.
When leading lady Megan Strahm as Belle, entered the stage and approached Luke Hamby as The Beast, at center stage in the finale portion of the show, the entire audience responded with a thunderous cheer that reverberated into the lobby of Palmer Auditorium.
Meanwhile, strong winds outside howled and carried dust and leaves into the lobby and inside the auditorium. For a time, the dust appeared to be artificial smoke similar to what was used for one of the production’s forest scenes.
The “Beauty and the Beast” program printed the following synopsis: “The classic story tells of Belle, a young woman in a provincial town, and the Beast, who is really a young prince trapped under the spell of an enchantress. If the Beast can learn to love and be loved, the curse will end and he will be transformed into his former self. But time is running out. If the Beast does not learn his lesson soon, he and his household will be doomed for all eternity.”
Robles said ideas for the production for “Beauty and the Beast” began in July of 2016. A three-day audition resulted in a cast of 80 performers and 20 crew members who made the final list for the production. They were all volunteers.
“The cast, the crew, and everybody involved with North County Coalition for the Arts — we are all volunteers,” Robles said. “We take our time out of our day to put on a production like this. They are all 100 percent local. They are from Imperial, El Centro, Brawley, Holtville, Calipatria, Heber, and everywhere. They came to us.”
Robles said rehearsals began in January and continued all the way through to this past weekend. And as a result, the musical play was apparently very well received by residents of Imperial Valley.
Camila Gaytan, 15, said she admired her history teacher from Imperial High School and enjoyed watching her perform. “I thought it was like kind of amazing to see my history teacher, Miss Strahm, when she performed as Belle. I’m like, I’m happy to see her. She was so beautiful on stage,” Gaytan said.
The talent in the show even surprised El Centro resident Coral Parkey, who said she used to live in a large city complete with a wide variety of cultural art offerings. “It was really good,” Parkey said. “I’ve actually seen ‘Beauty and the Beast’ in Chicago a long time ago. And this was pretty good considering it’s a smaller town than Chicago was.”
Robles expressed his gratefulness to those contributed to the production. “It’s been a lot of work put into this production,” he said. “I couldn’t do it alone. I would really like to say thank you to everybody involved, especially my director Sara Correa, choreography director Lisa Smelser, music director Esteban Corona, technical director Steven Cosio, and my audio engineer Aaron Steagall, and specifically, Jay Kruger.”