Disney's Beauty and the Beast
There has to be some new additive in the Adelaide water supply! The last few months have seen an increase in the quality of this state’s amateur theatre; top-notch comedies such as “The 39 Steps” and “Out Of Order”; high quality dramas in the form of “Six Degrees Of Separation” and the brilliant “The Pillowman”; and now, Northern Light have set the bar pretty damn high for amateur musical companies with their sparkling version of Disney’s Beauty And The Beast.
With a book by Linda Woolverton, music by Alan Menken and lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice and based around the 1991 Disney animated film of the same name, this is a tale that is, as the title song (sung gloriously by Lisa Simonetti (Mrs Potts)) states, as old as time - one of love based on feelings and kindness, not on appearance.
Under the control of director Fran Edwards, this show has it all; charm, wit, comedy, romance, drama and good clean family fun (all the elements required for any true Disney classic) - plus, three impressive and crucial ingredients: a great sounding orchestra and high quality vocals all under the tight, masterful control of Musical Director Peter Johns; marvellous varied dance routines (watch out for the ‘Gaston’ number in particular) by Kerry-Lynne Hauber, seemingly channelling Onna White at times; and an impressive, energy-charged, extremely talented cast.
The entire production flows seamlessly from the opening graphics (designed by Gareth Wilkes and Paul Briske), through to the fight scene (choreographed by Anton Schrama) and finishing with the required fairytale kiss. Having dissed a stage crew in a previous review, this reviewer must compliment highly this crew and it’s Stage Manager, Brendan Cooney for the part they play in the seamlessness.
As beauty Belle, Kate Dempsey is gorgeous and delightful. Both her performance and vocals are sweet whilst still retaining a strength reflecting the character perfectly. Andrew Crispe is perfection playing the Beast. In a role that could only too easily become frightening, Crispe delivers dignity, a certain air of nobility and even humour. His operatic background is ideal for his songs and every musical’s Act One should end with his singing “If I Can’t Love Her”.
That gift to amateur musicals, Omkar Nagesh lights up the stage as candlestick, Lumiere and though his legs may be bound for the show, it is very obvious that his talent hasn’t been. As his companion piece, stuffy valet cum ornamental clock, Cogsworth, James Reed has all his gears meshing well. Lisa Simonetti is nicely motherly as Mrs Potts and, as previously stated, sings the title song beautifully; whilst her little teacup, Chip is played delightfully by the ever-so cute and adorable Leah Boots, stealing every audience member’s heart along the way. All these household goods are ably supported by Haydee Watkins (Babette) and Karen Muller (Madame de la Grande Bouche).
Jason Ferguson, as Belle’s would-be suitor, Gaston, is conceit personified and has as much muscle behind his great vocals as behind his ‘manly’ biceps. His cowardly, toadying, lisping sidekick, Le Fou is played hysterically (or maybe that should be, hythterically) by Jethro Pidd, who almost steals the show with his perfectly timed comic antics.
Scott Reynolds makes a nice cameo as cadaverous asylum keeper, Monsieur D’Arque and gels well with Ferguson and Pidd in the “Maison des Lunes” number. As Belle’s father, Maurice, Russell Ford could be more eccentric rather than nerdy, but does well.
With inventive costumes by Fran Edwards and Ann Humphries, great makeup by Sarah Michelle Bamford and clever foam work from Alan Thompson and Nerida Shened added to the mix, it all adds up to this ’Beauty and the Beast” being a fairytale come gloriously to life.
This is TRUE family entertainment - so take all the family (ok, maybe not the pets!).