The world of Disney is magical and the story of Beauty & The Beast is enchanted. It was originally a book written by Linda Woolverton and has since enjoyed success as a Broadway musical and animated film with music by Alan Menken and lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice. The Riverside Theatre in Parramatta is currently hosting a new adaptation of the show, which is produced and directed by Neil Gooding. The show is ultimately a visual feast sprinkled with an extra handful of pixie dust.
For those unfamiliar with the story, the plot revolves around the Beast- a man who was once a very spoilt prince. He encounters an old, haggard woman and refuses to help her. So she casts a spell on him to make him ugly and curses his house by turning the other occupants into inanimate objects (like clocks, teapots, wardrobes, etc). The only way the Beast can reverse this spell is to make a woman fall in love with him before the final petal falls from a rose.
The Beauty in this play is Belle, a strong-willed and determined, provincial girl. She is pursued by and rejects a handsome but dim-witted suitor, Gaston. She also finds herself trapped in the Beast’s palace after she goes to rescue her father from the evil creature’s clutches. Despite being imprisoned, Belle holds her own and refuses to listen to the master of the palace. She proves a great role model and the story itself has some excellent take-home messages for younger people.
This production of Beauty & The Beast boasts a large and strong cast with relative newcomer, Kelsi Boyden shining as Belle. Scott Irwin is excellent and he wins us all over as the Beast. Irwin has previously performed in Les Miserables alongside Donna Lee and Adam Scicluna who play Mrs Potts and Cogsworth, respectively. Other special mentions should go out to David Tucker who plays a camp and over-the-top Lumiere (the excess acting adds some real comedic value to his character) as well as Danny Folpp who is cheeky as the pretty boy, Gaston. The actors also did well on opening night in overcoming some minor sound issues.
The set in this production is not overly complicated with only minor changes to distinguish between the town and the Beast’s castle. The lighting perfectly complements the scenes- from the bright, full-blown frivolity in big, dance numbers like “Be Our Guest” to the gorgeous ballroom-like atmosphere of the title song. It is during this scene where the two leads really fall in love and the audience’s collective heartstrings are tugged for full effect. In short, it’s truly magical.
Beauty & The Beast is full of acrobatics and colourful theatrics as the ensemble members cartwheel and dance their way through numbers like: “Be Our Guest” and “Human Again”. They are backed by a full, 22-piece orchestra and when this is combined with stellar performances and costumes that pop with glitter and tint- it makes for one dazzling display.
Beauty & The Beast is ultimately a sweet and spine-tingling musical which will appeal to young and old thanks to its heady mix of engaging drama, high comedy, thoughtful morality and full technicolour. There’s nothing left to say but be our guest, be enchanted by the spectacle and I defy you to leave the theatre without a smile on your face as you hum along to the catchy tunes. It’s all such fabulous fun as you laugh and jest with the best.
Originally published on 21 July 2014 at the following website: http://www.theaureview.com/arts/reviews/beauty-the-beast-riverside-theatre-parramatta
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