Dear Turnpike Community Theatre,
Thank you so much once again for inviting myself, and my family to come and enjoy your latest production, "Beauty and the Beast" - this story is one which is special to us as a family as our little boy was totally obsessed with it for quite some time, when he was smaller, and we looked forward to coming to see your production with great expectation.
There was so much to commend about this production, with strong performances from all of the small cast, but for me the most striking aspect of this particular production was the resourcefulness of the director, and choreographer, utilising the reduced number of cast members, and using the space imaginatively as always, to construct a thoroughly entertaining, multi-faceted performance.
The opening sequence introduced us to Sarah Masters' "Punctilio" who was an effective comic character throughout, also later in the guise of "Toad". We felt an empathic connection to the bullied and abused aide, and we were so happy that in the end he stood up to the Beast! It was good to see Sarah playing a comedic role this time, a change from the characters we have seen her play before. The hopping of Toad was brilliant!
We also met Mark Bassett's "Brutus" and later the "Beast". Mark's delivery and diction was excellent throughout, again adding to the depth of the performance through varying the tone and projection of his character's voice to good effect - Gill David had warned us that the Beast was going to be beastly, and she was right! However, the dramatic moments where this was so were well managed and didn't upset Austin (aged 5) who was sitting right on the front row!
I feel I should mention the set and the use of the space on offer once more. We particularly liked the use of stage, floor, and the Gardener's Cottage platform. The branches, leaves and roses all dressed the room beautifully. Sound bytes of the "roar" of the beast, and the magic spells gave more depth still, really adding to the atmosphere created.
Act two began with a lovely spell from Queen Rosabel. What struck me about this was Hannah Boardman's musicality, in matching the rhythm of the verse, with the meter of the audio backing - this was excellent.
The highlight of the whole production for me, was the duet of the song "Beauty and the Beast", performed beautifully by Lizzy Boardman and Ellie Gunning. As a musician myself, I know just how lonely it can feel to be on stage, the lights on you, and having to perform in front of a crowded room, and I thought the young singers coped fantastically. They sang antiphonally, with a real sense of beauty and sweetness, and were perfectly in tune and in time. Their voices were dynamically balanced with one another too, showing good musical awareness. Next time, and as they grow in confidence, they could project their voices right to the back of the room, and open up their singing voices - I do realise we came to watch on opening night too which can add to the tension! This whole sequence including the dancing was a very emotive, effective tableau, and provided a total contrast to the narrative, so well done to you all.
There were countless other enjoyable aspects of this performance, and I must say that I think the Turnpike Community Theatre group seems to be a lovely organisation where the cast look after and support each other, utilising the strengths and talents on offer. Thank you once again, for a thoroughly enjoyable evening for all three of us. We look forward to the next Turnpike production.