Huddersfield Light Opera Company
Beauty And The Beast
Lawrence Batley Theatre
REVIEW: by Andrew Hirst
IT certainly is a big production job as anyone who has followed the run-up to this show in the Examiner will know.
We’ve taken readers backstage and into the rehearsal rooms to reveal what it takes to put on something like this – and it can be stressful in every sense of the word, with more than an element of risk.
It’s cost £63,000 to stage and there are 100 volunteers working on it, including a 40-strong cast and a 13-piece orchestra in the deep pit well below the front of the stage. I hope they don’t suffer from asthma as the stage smoke in the eerie scenes curls right down into the pit.
So has all that effort been worthwhile?
From a seat in the audience, most definitely. The attention to detail is obvious from the flamboyant and dramatic costumes – no colour is spared in the clothes worn, especially in the crowd scenes – and it’s a remarkable feat to think that everything was made by the company’s own wardrobe department. They’ve done the actors proud and given them the tools for the job.
It can get crowded up there on stage, especially when you’ve actors dressed as candelabras, clocks, teapots, knives, forks and spoons.
In one of the big numbers in a castle scene you’ve just got to applaud the logistics as they all manage to move around one another without colliding – and that’s got to be a close call when you’re a giant fork.
The lighting, too, gives it that spectacular feel with purples predominating and when the beast turns back to a prince expect something a bit special.
There are 40 different scenes and things go with a bang as the pyrotechnics range from an exploding car to shooting fireworks.
Casting has been all-important and seems to be spot on. Holly Comber, who plays Belle, doesn’t get a note wrong and has the stage presence to take such a demanding role to such a high level.
Her fiance, Dom Moccia, hams it up as Gaston, complete with a wig that looks like an Elvis or Fonz caricature. It’s an over-the-top role that he takes over-the-top – and you need the knockabout stuff as this is predominantly a musical.
His sidekick is Holly’s brother, Chris, who plays Le Fou with energetic aplomb.
The songs may dominate the show, but there’s ample light relief with the very silly Silly Girls who adore Gaston for some unfathomable reason.
Neil Broadbent, who has a natural comic look, presence and sense of timing, is Lumiere – and well done to him for keeping his hands up as two candelabras. That’s got to be tiring.
Paul Bennett is the clock Cogsworth with he and Neil feeding lines off one another. Paul lands the best line: “It it’s not baroque then don’t fix it.’’ OK, well I did say it was a musical.
Helen Woodhead is giant teapot Mrs Potts and turns in a top notch rendition of the show’s title track. Her boy’s trapped in a teacup and there’s more than a hint of magic illusion there.
The never-less-than-very-angry Beast – played by Steve Redfern – has a booming Brian Blessed-style voice. It’s a big role – quite literally – and he’s something of an incredible hulk for this one. The face-painting’s a tad bright, lifting it from the menacing and more into the partying.
Expect nothing less than a very happy ending with the Prince giving Belle a far more lingering kiss that Wills gave Kate on the balcony at Buckingham Palace last Friday.
Just don’t tell Gaston.
The show runs at the Lawrence Batley Theatre all week until Saturday and anyone who likes Disney or a musical well done shouldn’t miss it. The box office number is 01484 430528.