REVIEW: ‘Beauty and the Beast’ – First Act

First Act always put on a good show, and Beauty and the Beast at Shanklin Theatre last week was no exception. Every single cast member played their role with enthusiasm and really engaged the audience. The story is a well known one, but First Act’s version captured the emotions despite us knowing what was going to happen. A few differences in characters along the way made it interesting too.

The ensemble singing made me want to join in – and most of the audience were clapping along to some of the songs. But it was the acting that made it special. From the moment the enchantress – Rachel Stone swirling her cape wonderfully – turned the handsome prince into a beast to the final moment when he is redeemed by Belle’s love for him, it was spellbinding.

The cast became townspeople and residents of the Beast’s castle, as well as servants of the Beast, and worked together as a team so well – you could tell a lot of hard rehearsal work had gone into making the show.

On the Wednesday show I saw, the main characters were all superb. Particular praise must go to Jade Hornbuckle as the narrator – she was onstage throughout, sitting to the side of the action but when the spotlight was on her she was word perfect and really kept the pace of the show moving with her clear narration. Wendy Todd was fabulous as the Beast – I actually felt really sorry for the character – even though we know it was his own fault he was doomed to his appearance, and he was suitably unpleasant to his poor servants, but of course a happy ending was waiting for him and the heroine.

Marie Smith was captivating as Belle: sweet and innocent, and it was lovely to see her gradually warming to the Beast who had captured her. The scene where she saw her father in the stocks through the magic mirror were beautifully presented, and Peter Allen was perfectly cast in this role. I have to say I absolutely love the gorgeous yellow dress Belle wore at the end – Marie looked stunning in it.

A mention for the Monday and Tuesday shows I wasn’t able to see – I understand from people who were in the audience on those days that the casts were just as amazing as those I saw on Wednesday so I can honestly say a huge well done to every single person (including the wonderful tutors who supported the cast in so many ways) who was involved with Beauty and the Beast. I hear First Act will be back on stage in the spring – I for one can’t wait!

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