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“BEAUTY & THE BEAST”  


Once again we were treated to a wonderful evening’s entertainment – made all the more special by the fact that these are young people aged 10 to 19 years, and they learn the whole show and perform it in two weeks.

 

I find it exhilarating and interesting that we see the progression from year to year, and Lucy has such a good insight into the look and casting of a production – seeing the strengths of people that they perhaps don’t realise they have!


The show opened with Megan Wagstaff as the Young Belle narrating the story, such clarity of tone and expression, a good opening, enhanced by the action of the  Enchantress played by Daisy Casemore, turning the Prince into the Beast behind a gauze, with atmospheric lighting, which set the scene nicely.


I was impressed throughout by the quality of the music, Graham Thomson works so well with youngsters, getting the best out of them – as it isn’t the most easy of music to get to grips with.  Graham was supported by a good band that added to the general mood and feel of the show, accompanying well, and the sound balance was good, so we were able to hear the words at all time.


Ellie Reay was an utterly charming Belle, a complete contrast to her role in last year’s show, she has a lovely voice, and gave the role the depth of character needed.


Cameron Hay once again shone, as the almost cartoonesque Gaston – Cameron is one of my favourite young performers, and he certainly pulled out all the stops again to give us this larger than life character.  His all round ability increases with every performance, and his confidence in his portrayal and himself is well-founded.


Gaston’s unfortunate sidekick Le Fou, was tailor-made for Harry Rodgers, another favourite of mine, who also shows improvement with every role.  The knock-about quality of being the butt of Gaston’s ire, is something Harry accomplishes well, being a natural comedian.


Harvey J. Eldridge played the lively Lumiere – just an occasional slip of accent, but overall a good and lively performance, enhanced by a really super costume.  I would have liked to have seen more light to his candles, but appreciate the difficulties of such props.


Alex Wheeler was a good foil to the up-front Lumiere, as the more serious Cogsworth, again the characterisation was nicely accomplished, another young man who improves continually.


Mrs Potts was played with sympathetic understanding by Jessica Pegram, she also always gives a good performance, and had to cope with the vagaries of a teapot costume this year, which she did well.  It was also lovely to see the relationship between her and Chip, her son, played by Connie Jenkins-Grieg, who gave a lovely performance, and it was so nice to be able to hear every word Chip said - and so clearly but with lots of expression.


Abbie Mead was a very saucy Babette, I liked the flirty relationship between her and Lumiere, she accomplished the French maid very well.


Dana Hudson was an imposing Madame La Grand Bouche – really believable in her assertions of her career singing in front of royalty.


The Silly Girls – Megan Perry, Bethany Gammon and Elaynor Holland all gave their all, by looking and acting ‘silly’ – a good contrast to the seriousness of Belle, and the butchness of Gaston the object of their affections.

Alfie French was a very convincing Monsieur D’Arque – almost fagin-like, but extreme clarity of speech with menace – nicely done.


Tom Pigram, as well as showing us a very nice line in dance in the ensemble numbers, came into his own when the Beast transformed to the Prince for the finale – he looked very suave and elegant – and has developed into a good performer with all round ability that shows continued improvement – well done.


Then we had the Beast – a very good portrayal from Alastair Robinson.  Because of the nature of the costume the characterisation had to be in the voice and the posture, which Alastair accomplished so very well.  He had strength and emotion in his voice and carried off the very difficult If I Can’t Have Her so well. I really felt for this ugly creature, and found him very believable.  Super performance Alastair.


The principal line-up was completed by Chris Young, as Belle’s father – a nice role that he was able to bring his acting and singing talents to.


The ensemble also gave us such good portrayals, as the various villagers, knives, forks, spoons, serviettes etc – I couldn’t fault any of them and their enthusiasm is catching – helping make this a totally magical production.

Just one note of caution, but is probably something that will come with experience, several principals let their characters slip from time to time – nothing too much, but a point to work on in future – and to remember that there will always be someone watching you wherever you are onstage and whatever you are doing!!

The opening number was colourful, with excellent movement, the bustling village square was very lively.  I also liked the tavern setting - the choreography and energy for the Gaston number was great, the energy was catching and carried us all along with the action.


Part of the magic was the wonderful set of costumes, created by Gaye O’Hare, they not only looked good, they moved well, and everyone looked good and comfortable in their costumes.  Not easy to achieve, but she did, and hats off to her.


I liked the sets - the atmospheric lighting and sound effects contributed to the general ambience of the production, and I’m sure made it a very magical experience not only for the children in the audience, but also for us adults.


So, once again I can only thank Lucy O’Hare and her very supportive family and superb cast and crew, for another wonderful show with excellent performances, that left me feeling very proud of our young people and confidence in their ability to deliver such high quality productions under the guidance of Lucy and Graham, who should be satisfied that once again the audience went away having experienced a wealth of good theatre.



Empire Theatre Arts

BEAUTY & THE BEAST” review date: 245H Aug 2012

Harpenden Halls

Direction & Choreography:  Lucy O’Hare

MD: Graham Thomson

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