TJ Stage tells the ‘Tale as Old as Time’


Caitlyn Barnes

Photographed: Francesca James, Chloe-Rose Barnes, Bowie Baughman, Rowan Boyd, Josh Wittenberg, Jonas Marquat, Caeden Zuckerman, and Mellany Zahn rehearsing “Gaston”

Taylor Johnson, Writer

Come and be enchanted at Governor Thomas Johnson High School’s Spring Production of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast this March! From breathtaking sets to outstanding performances, this show is sure to be a fairytale. Musical Director Mrs. Lietuvnikas and cast members reveal their struggles and joys in bringing the beloved story to TJ’s stage.

Mrs. Lietuvnikas has been directing musicals in Frederick County for 14 years and at TJ for four. She says her favorite part of being a musical director is watching all the parts come together: “The closer you get to a show, the more things get added…watching the kids take ownership is great.” When asked what makes this musical different from previous productions Mrs. Lietuvninkas responds, “There’s a lot of out-of-the-box thinking. Our stage is hard to work with so we have to get creative. We at TJ also cast based on who earns the role, so I think there’s going to be some surprises when people come to see the show.”

When asked about the most exciting part in the production, Academy for the Fine Arts theater student and flower seller actress Daniela Cañas responds, “I have such joy for performing on stage, so the only thing is just to show it to everybody. We have a lot of great people, especially vocalists…The costumes made by Mr. Ion—beautiful. Set—beautiful. Everything—beautiful.”

Moyo Amusa adds, “I’m both in the show and tech, so I see both sides of it — I see how much work goes into making the stuff and also how much work the actors put into the acting, the singing, and the dancing. I’ve learned not to downplay the amount of work that someone’s doing even if they’re not a lead or in the show because if you’re behind the scenes it’s still a lot of work and a big commitment.” She adds, “In Hairspray! last year, we had less time and everything got smooshed together towards March, but now we’ve had a lot more time to put work into it so it’s going to be a really good show. I’m really proud of it.”

Costume Manager Jake Grunwell adds, “If you saw Hairspray! last year, those costumes were good, but these are delectable.”

Young Prince and Beast actor Paolo Bonarriva says he’s most excited about the production because “…everyone here is really talented…it’s also the first musical I’ve ever done for TJ Stage and my first lead role.”

Belle actress Bessy Sillah says she’s most excited about her family and friends seeing the show at the end. Gaston actor Joshua Wittenberg adds that he’s most excited about getting to experience playing a villain.

Lastly, when the cast was asked why people should come to see the show, ensemble actress Jenncyn Eyler responded, “The production is gonna be really great, we’re working really hard. The costumes are great, the set’s great, and the acting is top-tier.” Actress Rebecca Ege adds, “It’s going to be magical.”

Photographed: Daniela Cañas, Jenncyn Eyler, and Rebecca Ege posing in the GTJHS Auditorium during rehearsal (Taylor)

Unlike any musical production at TJ before, the cast will also be offering a Backstage Experience: Behind the Scenes with Belle and Beast and Friends!