By Pauline Smith
Courtney Pennisi as Babette and Darcy Rhodes as Lumière.
Disney’s Beauty and the Beast
Lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice
Presented by the Queensland Musical Theatre
Directed by Deian Ping
Twelfth Night Theatre
Cintra Road, Bowen Hills
Season runs until 13 June 2021.
Beauty and the Beast captured the heart, mind and soul, from the overture to the final curtain, with a spectacle of colour, song and dance.
For anyone who has seen both Disney movies (animated and live action) this production brings back those fond memories and well-known lyrics, with a few extra songs added for story-telling purposes.
The prologue sets the scene, with the prince and everyone in the castle being cast under a spell by a sorceress, intended to teach the prince a lesson that beauty resides within. As we know, the rose she offered as payment for a night’s stay, becomes an object of consternation, as the years pass and there is no hope in sight that the prince, now beast, will ever learn to love and be loved in return to break the spell.
The opening number, set in a quaint French village, introduces Belle (Belinda Lewis), the daughter of an inventor, who does not quite fit in. The opening number, Belle, tells Belle’s story and how she feels there must be more to this provincial life, while the villagers find her habits quite odd. Gaston (Byron Philp), however pays no attention to her oddness, just her beauty, which makes her the ideal candidate to be his wife, being as he is, the most handsome, brawniest man in the village (according to him).
As fate would have it, her father Maurice (Robert Carr) ends up being held prisoner in the beast’s castle after getting lost in the woods and Belle exchanges herself for her father. And the beginning of a love story takes shape, of course, though not without a few bumps along the way, especially in an enchanted castle, where the servants have also been turned into various pieces of furniture, ornaments, and crockery.
There are some stupendous songs in this production which were all sung well. Gaston is a self-appreciating song sung by Gaston, his sidekick LeFou (Tristan Vanyai) and the villagers in the local tavern was extremely lively and was sung with gusto by Philp and Vanyai, who were well paired as the two characters. Vanyai being smaller than Philp, added to emphasising Gaston’s size. Gaston’s strength also comes to the fore in this song with him picking up LeFou and sitting one of the silly girls who are in love with him, on his shoulder (although not both at the same time). Philp’s and Vanyai’s voices were great. I really liked the pairing of these two on stage, as they both complimented one another.
The song though, which had the audience clapping as if it was final curtain, was Be Our Guest. Lumière, a candlestick (Darcy Rhodes), Mrs Potts, a teapot (Anita Parakh-Morgan), Chip, a chipped cup and Mrs Potts’s daughter (Tia Godbold) and the ensemble put on dinner entertainment for Belle to welcome her to the castle. This number was absolutely incredible with the knives, forks, spoons, plates, and napkins dancing up a storm that was Las Vegas worthy. I particularly liked the addition of young cast members as salt, pepper and vinegar condiments.
The other musical numbers that are also so well known from the movies, Something There and The Mob Song, appear in the second half, as the story unfolds to the ending.
Michael Lewis and Belinda Lewis were magical on stage; their voices were great, and well suited to the characters. I particularly liked Rhodes, who stole the show at times, with his cheeky portrayal of a randy candlestick, flicking his candle fire on and off as the moment dictated. His interaction with Cogsworth (a clock) (James Rogers) was delightful and funny, as was his on again, off again courtship of Babette (a feather duster) (Courtney Pennisi). Equally Parakh-Morgan, was the epitome of Mrs Potts, invoking thoughts of Angela Lansbury (who voiced the character in the animated movie).
The stage was minimally dressed with a set of steps leading to the west wing tower. Other props were moved on and off by either stagehands or characters. The main scene setting was done by the projection of scenes on a back screen, which was easy to see when the lights were down, tended to fade a bit with the lights up. The spooky forest and dungeon scenes had the special effect of haze to create the atmosphere. Unfortunately, this tended to hang around and lighting was over emphasised because of it, with beams cutting through the haze still on stage. What was really clever was the rose which lost its petals one by one throughout the production.
The costumes, make up, and wigs were fantastic, and were cleverly devised for the enchanted characters. The Beast was great with the horns, beard, lower jaw fangs, and clawed paws, completed the image of a man turned ‘hideous’. Belle’s final gown for the dinner and ballroom scene was a magnificent golden yellow, exactly in keeping with the original story by Disney. The best costume must go to Lumière, followed a close second by Mme de la Grande Bouche (a wardrobe) (Kathryn Bradbury). This comes to the fore when Belle is requested to dress for dinner and the Mme digs into her ‘wardrobe’ to find something suitable.
The choreography (Julianne Burke) was so well done and with the benefit of many talented dancers, it was amazing to watch. The orchestra conducted by musical director, Michael Keen, was equally fantastic, keeping audience members in their seats to hear the last chords well after the cast had done their final bows.
This production was exceptionally well performed.