WILLOW Tree's latest
production of Beauty and the Beast was anything
but beastly - apart from one of the characters
As soon as you entered the New Hall's auditorium you were greeted with a grand and colourful set from the gates of the Beast's mansion to the tavern it was all pleasing to the eye. There was always something to look at whether it was the cast mingling with each other and remaining in character throughout, or dancing plates and gargoyles as part of the set itself.
The costumes too stood out for being in keeping with Disney's 1991 feature animation with Gaston (Rick Barfoot) wearing bright red with yellow cufflinks, and the characters of Cogsworth (Malcolm Yeates) and Lumiere (Keith Thomas) looking exactly like a clock and a candle and both entertaining to watch.
Malcolm once again showing he can play a wide variety of roles with the ability to get the most out of his lines with comic timing and animation. He formed something of a double act with Keith and the two worked well together. The French accent remained for the duration, even in the musical numbers and he adapted well to having candlesticks as arms.
Before meeting the talking clock and the candle, Belle (Amy Garland) was introduced to us as an outcast bookworm. Surprisingly this was Amy's first principle role within the Willow Tree and after her superb performance and singing shouldn't be the last.
Her mad inventor father Maurice (Paul Williams) led the plot into the forest. Paul made his character his own and gave the impression of a slightly mad, bumbling but caring gentleman.
Amy's onstage chemistry grew with the Beast (Nathan Banks) who with Amy formed a very professional Beauty and a Beast. Behind the furry garment on his face was a great singing and theatrical voice, which gave a powerful presence on the stage as you'd expect a beast to have. The couple were very enjoyable to watch as Belle chipped away at the stone heart of the Beast she would fall in love with. There was good stage chemistry between the two which culminated in a very believable and romantic kiss at the end.