2016 - 2017 Season
2016 - 2017 Season
Theatre Sarnia’s Handbill
Beauty and the Beast
Theatre Sarnia: Beauty and the Beast is Magical
Sunday November 20, 2016
by Brian Hay
That word came to mind many times throughout the show, as it should; Director Jan Walker-Holt and her crew have created a production that can only be described as magical. The enchantment moves in gradually as the stories behind each of the characters unfold but, with the groundwork laid, the production leaps into a realm of surreal imagination that’s both captivating and profoundly moving in every aspect of its execution.
The costumes, makeup and choreography epitomize the finest in both creativity and technical expertise. Artist Cat Cabajar conjured up a guise for the ‘Beast’ that allowed him to be fearsome and gentle. Willi Beckers-Locke designed a wardrobe collection that has to stand as one of the most ingeniously imaginative to grace the productions done by Theatre Sarnia in recent years. Many of them (especially the kitchen utensils and cutlery) have to seen to be believed. Choreographer Renee Coutu’s routines for the ensembles played a huge role in the magical aspects of the production exploding on to the stage and an even larger one in elevating their level as the story progressed.
It was supported by excellent performances and strong singing from the cast. Trevor Morris (who’s always a treat to watch) straddled the fine line between brilliance and overdoing it perfectly, creating a ‘Gaston’ who was hilariously full of his favourite person: himself. Kip McMillan did an excellent job as his grovelling foil, ‘Lefou’. Julie Cushman came across as a wonderfully vain and coyly alluring ‘Babette’.
Supporting roles were handled with great attention to detail. Norm Francoeur gave a moving performance as Belle’s father ‘Maurice’. Roger Graham was nicely outrageous in the roles of the Bookseller and ‘Monsieur D’Arque’. Ruth Francoeur brought a combination of earthy cynicism and diva-like flamboyance to her portrayal of ‘Madame de la Grande Bouche (which also showcased one of the stellar costumes among the many that were featured). Nicholas Campbell and Richard Teskey played off of each other beautifully in the roles of ‘Lumiere’ and ‘Cogsworth’. Ben Adair made a wonderful teacup in the part of ‘Chip’. Jen Brown Nead was a delight as his mother, ‘Mrs. Potts’.
Michael Hillier and Hilary Dutourgeering gave standout performances in the lead roles. Hillier delivered a ‘Beast’ whose transition from fearsome to tender was believable and entirely sympathetic. Miss Dutourgeering’s maturing from that of a youth captivated by dreams to a grown woman embracing adulthood with its hopes and disappointments was something to behold. Both delivered strong work in their musical numbers but her musical ability was a revelation. She hit all the notes and displayed excellent control of pitch and expression.
Musical Director Frank Brennan did fine work with the music of Alan Menken, Tim Rice and Howard Ashman. The singing of the ensemble numbers ranged between good and great. Showstoppers like the Beast’s finale from the first act and Belle’s big number from the second came through with all their emotional radiance. Jen Brown Nead’s second act performance of the theme song was ravishing. The orchestra, led by Frank Brennan, overcame a tentative start but jelled quickly and gave an excellent performance. The group, led by Frank Brennan and comprised of pianist Anthony Wing, keyboard players Tim Hummel and Valerie Schmidt, violinist Caitlin Mason, flautist Tessa Catton, oboe and english horn player Allison Mahon, clarinetist Blake Stevenson, trumpeter Bill Nelson, horn player Christine Schofield and percussionist Harlan Braichet, deserve all the credit for pulling things together. It’s not easy but they did it in spades.
The lighting set up by Catherine Soulliere served the elaborate designs of Natalie Jackson beautifully. The Stage Management crew, led by Andrea Matthews with assistance from Ron Pask and Cindy Maurice Dubois, did yeoman’s work keeping the changes and complex machinery flowing smoothly. Sound and effects man Dan Tidball did a great job of keeping performers audible.
Much of the credit for putting everything together goes to Director Jan Walker-Holt. Her pacing of the story moved at a good pace and the performances she drew from the cast were strong. More importantly however, to have something of this scale work to its potential, she had to be able to delegate work and trust the people in her crew to come through. She did that and the result is a production that has the magic it’s intended to portray.
Or to put it another way: Wow!
This performance took place at the Imperial Theatre in Sarnia Ontario on Saturday November 19, 2016. The article was written to convey impressions of what it was like being in the audience as the production unfolded.