Press Report




December 7th 2010

Beauty and the Beast
Engaging show a credit to all concerned

Disney's Beauty and the Beast
November 29th 2010
Tiverton's New Hall
Amanda Knott

   A 10 piece orchestra pit, swathed in scarlet and built into the apron stage of the New Hall, greeted audiences on arrival at the first night of The Willow Tree Theatre Company's autumn show - and what a show!  The big band, lavish sets that rolled on, turned around, slid off, slid down, a mirror that hologrammed, a revealing gauze illuminating forest beasts on the prowl, a spiral spinning smoking tornado, a living, singing beautifully, teapot (Jo Wilson-Hunt), a matching, living, speaking with great clarity, teacup (Dom Jones).
   There's more - a remarkable human candelabra (Keith Thomas) with wicks that billowed and flickered on demand, a speaking salon clock (Malcolm Yeates) complete with wind up facility and delightful scurrying actionBabette, a truly attractive feather duster and last, but by no means least, in this list of 'objects', comes Madame de la Grande Bouche, Mistress of the large Mouth, expertly created by Katy Baker who is also responsible for the very high standard of singing throughout the show.
   The fun and games are lead by the wicked and self important Gaston (Rick Barfoot) in an astonishing wig which added inches and flavour to his powerful stage presence.  He wants to marry Belle and will get his way, even by trying to section her dizzy inventor father (Paul Williams).  What a puffing and blowing and clunking contraption he wheeled on - potatoes in one end, and chips, amazingly, out the other.



   Gaston is outwitted in the face of true love of course, ending up in the castle dungeon, lurching dramatically over the edge of the stage into a pit complete with portcullis.  He was attended, before his pit fall, by several daft cronies led by Adrian Garland and Leon Searle with much beer swilling bravado.  Praise must go to Steve Gage who, with a dedicated team, created the stage set - he also created a sly and briefly seen character called Monsieur D'Arque, he lurked and spied and was very slimy.
   To the hero and heroine of the show, Beauty and the Beast played by Amy Garland and Nathan Banks.  Both of these young performers have a lot of talent - they have lovely singing voices, acting skills, stage presence and a serene quality that simply makes you want to watch them.  This is a hugely ambitious show and perhaps on first night one could see the teething problems that arise from such a complex set and composite lighting and sound system - ironed out for the rest of the run, no doubt.  It was a great show and an accomplishment of which the entire 'on stage' company, the stage staff, technicians, musical director (John Fitton) choreographer (Debbie Shearman) wardrobe mistress (Denise James) director (Jon Sowden ) and founder and mentor (Irene Holland) should all be justly proud.



Audience Reviews



December 6th 2010

Nothing beastly about Willow Tree's Beauty and the Beast

WILLOW Tree's latest production of Beauty and the Beast was anything but beastly - apart from one of the characters of course.
   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.


   One character who was not so pleased with the kiss was Gaston. Although Rick doesn't have the body of a Disney animated muscle man, this didn't make him less authentic.  As mentioned, his costume added to what he made a very entertaining character and most of the comedy came from him and his very animated sidekick Lefou (Adrian Garland).
   Of the musical numbers, Rick led the cast in one of the more upbeat songs Gaston which was full of energy and plenty of humour.
   Another of the plays well known tunes - Beauty and the Beast was sung by the teapot Mrs Potts who showed to be as warm as a Tetley brew from upcountry and sang in such a way that brought out the emotions of the audience.
   Madame de la Grande Bouche (Katy Baker) made sure Belle was wearing the right costumes, and also kept the French accent throughout the play, as well as Babette (Victoria Baldwin) who was a mischievous feather duster.
   The show of course while having its stars was held together by the rest of the cast who were never dull to watch, and the very slick dancing which was a joy to watch.
   The show had everything you expect from good theatre - great acting, a superb set of well sung and recognisable songs, a variety of different and dazzling choreography from all age ranges, and a band to keep the foot tapping throughout.
   It's a shame there was some empty seats when I went to see it on the Wednesday, as this family show was more than worthy of a sell out.


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