Musical director Lee Redwood and director/choreographer Sarah Haberfield should be very pleased with their cast and crew of this very involved version of the classic French story. All the cast work very hard throughout to make the most of a rather long-winded excursion through this tale, involving ugly sisters, a beauty parlour scene (an allegory for the fatal transformation perhaps – nah), a horse called Gigi, children and villagers aplenty, a dolly dame and an ’Allo ’Allo style French café. Much of the main story is contained throughout the second half, the first introducing the cast and allowing the traditional panto sketches and ‘stuff’ to take place.
An excellent Emily-Jane Charge as the Rose Fairy waves her wand and sings beautifully to deprive the Countess Crustella – Fiona Fowler in suitable baddie mode, complete with laugh (and much enjoying herself) – of the hand of Prince Louis. Shannon Fisher as Belle is charming and warm, her singing and stage presence completely natural and to a very high standard. The duet with the Beast, a very sympathetic and real performance by Alex Cook, is particularly good. The Beast’s own solo work is also very moving and well sung, adding layers to the part, especially when hidden behind a rather impressive mask.
Martin Pitman as Dame Dolly commands the stage with ease, bringing much laughter alongside ‘ugly’ sisters to Belle: Judy Anders as Chardonnay and Polly Glide as Lambrini. The interaction between all three of them is clearly being enjoyed, the sisters inhabiting ever more outrageous costumes in pursuit of a man, be he on stage or not.
Sam Davis as Jean-Claude (the Gaston character) swaggers his narcissistic way throughout, his singing and demeanour totally in tune with the intent of the role, but also giving just the right touch of humour too, acquiring some audience love rather than disdain. Max Lucas as Jacques and Ian Whitty as Papa cope exceedingly well with the demands of the compulsory ‘Sing a long song while the rest of the cast gets changed’ slot. It is never easy, but they do marvellously well to coax performances out of very young children.
Chorus work is very disciplined and lively, each chorus member focused and set, all singing and moving well, adding to the overall classy feel to this show.
Costumes throughout are absolutely superb. As well as performing as the sisters from Hell, Judy Anders and Polly Glyde have co-ordinated and produced a wonderful set of clothing for everyone from child ballet dancer to the end finale. The work that went into making them all must have been phenomenal but it certainly pays off. Lighting and sound are also very good given the vastness of the hall: I could hear every word said or sung and some of the lighting effects were very effective and sharp.
Perhaps a tad too long by about fifteen minutes, but speed will increase as the show progresses. You can catch it on 5 January at 7.30, 6 January at 2.30 and 7.30, and 7 January at 2.30. Well worth a visit – oh yes it is!