March 2013 at Leighton Buzzard Theatre
The minute the curtain opened the audience knew they were going to be treated to a wonderful retelling of the Disney classic “Beauty and the Beast” with fantastic production, performance and technical elements. The prologue was skilfully managed and brought us into the fairy-tale world of The Prince who is transformed into a Beast because of his selfish nature. Callum Fosberry played this role superbly with sensitivity and mesmerising stage presence-his rendition of “If I can’t Love Her”was wonderfully sung and held the audiences attention throughout.
The opening scene transported us the small village where Belle and the village characters came to life-the scene was carefully set showing the expertise of the ensemble both musically and dramatically. Belle played by Jess Allsopp won our hearts straight away with beautiful singing with clarity and perfect pitching. Her performance was totally believable and her character work and relationship interaction was outstanding. The village scenes allowed many in the company to shine through their performances including Matthew Wallis who played Maurice, Belle’s father. His duet with Belle near the beginning singing of his love for his daughter was sung with maturity and careful consideration to each word and note. Luke Birtles played Lefou the sidekick to Gaston with comedic timing, clear vocals and a real sense of fun. Gaston played by Harvey Murray was hilarious- perfect timing, arrogance and conceitedness coupled with a wonderful strong baritone voice made us both love and hate this character as he strutted around the stage trying to woo Belle without success.
The fun and extravagance came from the scenes in the castle with the furniture. Thomas Langston, Jenny Beckwith, Gemma White, Jo Turney, Gemma Faulkner, Ishana Meadows, Amy Jane Shane and Katie Wesley. The ensemble performance of Be our Guest led by Thomas as Lumeire was astonishing-layer upon layer of fantastic singing and choreography worthy of a West End performance. The costumes throughout the production were superb and in this number with dancing cakes, plates, spoons, knives, forks,champagne bottles-they were incredible. Little Chip played by Billy Knibb and Adam Derland (on alternate performances) added a very special spark –well done boys! Jenny played Mrs Potts and her empathy for Belle through her facial expressions was beautiful-her powerful and emotive singing of “ Beauty and The Beast” was just perfect.
The furniture danced, sang and acted their way through their scenes with ease and professionalism. Throughout the production every performer on the stage performed to perfection-thinking clearly about their role in every scene.
Staged with clear professional directorial vision by Sally Allsopp, musically directed with purpose and passion by the ultra talented musician David Allsopp, lighting by Jacob Shooter with technical expertise well beyond his years this production allowed four capacity audiences in the Leighton Buzzard Theatre to experience something special- young people coming together to create something wonderful, carefully led by an adult team of committed arts practitioners these young people worked together to make it happen. Well done to each and every person involved in this excellent production company.