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Halos Shine On ‘Beauty And The Beast’ Castmates

June 26, 2011 by John Rook

Imagine an award show and a pep rally all rolled into one big event.
If you can conjure that image, you might have an idea of what the Halo Awards look like each spring.
Sponsored by Seven Angels Theatre, the Halo Awards seek to recognize the outstanding achievement of student actors whose particular productions, and performances within those productions, captivate audiences of all ages.
This year, two Cheshire residents stood out among the crowd: Haley Paret and Zachary Leff.
Both students at Chase Collegiate, Paret and Leff made for an inspiring duo in the school’s rendition of Beauty and the Beast. Paret as Belle and Leff as The Beast made quite an impression and not only earned the two an award for Best Couple in a Musical, but also helped to propel their production to the top, winning Best Contemporary Musical.
“When we won for Best Musical, we went absolutely crazy,” reflected Paret. “Everyone went up there, we were hugging and jumping and clapping hands. We were (imitating the movie Rocky) with the trophy.”
Paret, who graduated from Chase earlier this month and will be going to Boston College in the fall, is a veteran of the Halo Awards and has won previously. In fact, Paret won Best Supporting Actress last year for her role in the classic Broadway musical, West Side Story, an award she stated was extremely gratifying because of how much the part had challenged her.
However, Paret admitted that being a part of Beauty and the Beast was, in some ways, more enjoyable than participating in some of the more serious productions in the past, primarily because the focus was on a younger audience.
“I am a Disney girl at heart, so I grew up knowing this musical,” said Paret. “Usually, the musicals we do aren’t for kids, but this one was and it was really a fun experience. For our last matinee, we had the kids come backstage and it was so wonderful to see them looking at us in our costumes, just enjoying it all.”
Leff, however, had to get used to the reaction younger members of the audience would have to him. As The Beast, Leff would spend an hour getting into makeup and costume for his role. When he was finished, Leff looked exactly as he should: like a beast.
“It’s strange to see little kids, with the terror in their eyes, running away from you like that,” said Leff, with a laugh. “It definitely makes the character more real.”
That, he admits, was the biggest challenge of his part — connecting with a character that was both violent and not human.
“I am not a very angry person, so I had to find that anger,” said Leff. “That was the part I had to work on.”
Leff called the Halo Awards experience “odd” but also “a lot of fun.” He commented on the fact that, whenever someone’s name or school was called, a raucous round of applause would ensue.
“It’s an award show, but for high school,” he said. “It’s the one night of the year where we get to have fun with our friends and hand out awards.”
Paret described it as “sort of like the Tony Awards,” and said that there was only one word to describe the sound made by the audience — loud.
“Even if you’re not nominated, it is so much fun to go and watch,” she said.
Both Leff and Paret stated that, while they enjoy acting, they will pursue other careers. Paret will study nursing at Boston College in the fall while Leff, going into his senior year at Chase, calls himself “more of a history guy.” Yet, both see themselves staying connected to performing.
“I have always enjoyed it and I would love to be a part of theater in some small way when I go to college,” said Leff.
“I don’t know how much time I’ll have, but I will go and support all the shows,” said Paret. “When you get involved with theater, you really are joining a community.”

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