NODA Report
(Disney's Beauty And The Beast - 2010)

BEAUTY And The BEAST.  The Willow Tree Theatre Company. New Hall.  December
Director: Jon Sowden.  MD: John Fitton.  Choreographer: Debbie Shearman.

Beauty and the Beast has been one of the favourite choices of the last year, for societies to perform, despite it being technically demanding, and an all-round huge task to undertake.  If the end result was anything to go by, Willow Tree took it all in their stride.  A fabulous set and effects are guaranteed here, this time we enjoyed working fountains, singing wall masks, mirror graphics, moving chairs, the list goes on and on, all fabulous work.  Colourful costumes lit up the stage, mostly home grown they included a very fetching black feathered affair, worn by an excitable, charismatic Babette (Victoria Baldwin) along with other stylish beauties, showcased by pleasing, subtle lighting.  As beautiful as the title suggests, Belle (Amy Garland) charmed us with her smooth, disciplined singing which included a spellbinding, emotional performance of 'Me'.  Her young beast (Nathan Banks), while not as imposing as some, left the audience in no doubt of his considerable artistic ability.  While striving to win Belle's affections, self-loving Gaston (Rick Barfoot) easily convinced the audience of his arrogance.  Maurice (Paul Williams), despite the broad west country accent, was well cast as Belle's eccentric father, as was the elegant Lumiere (Keith Thomas), reliable Cogsworth (Malcolm Yeates), and a most convincing, assured Madame De La Grande Bouche (Katy Baker).  A comforting Mrs Potts (Jo Wilson-Hunt) displayed a tender relationship with her 'trolley-bound' son Chip (Dominic Jones) who, although slightly older than one might expect, still managed to produce the aaah-factor.  Spectacular all singing dancing chorus numbers allowed the creative choreography to surface, danced with energy and style they brought the stage alive.  A transformation under a spiral of dry-ice completed a fairytale ending to a fairytale show.  Congratulations to a director who had the foresight, motivation and bravery to put his own inspiration into a show that often follows in the path of the original west-end production.  A real, feel good production.