Writer: Mike Kenny
Director: Matt Aston
Musical Director and Composer: Julian Butler
Designer: Lydia Denno
Reviewer: Laura Stimpson
This year’s festive offering from Lawrence Batley Theatre is a brand new musical version of Beauty and the Beast, by Olivier award winner Mike Kenny. Kenny’s family adaptations are a huge hit in theatres across the country, and this version of Beauty and the Beast is certainly no exception.
Kenny’s version of Beauty and the Beast is witty and clever. It does what all great family theatre does, appealing to both children and adults – not an easy thing to achieve! We watch while Beauty turns from a self-obsessed, spoilt and vain young lady, into a mature woman who appreciates her family and learns to see inner beauty.
The play only has four actors, but it certainly doesn’t feel small scale. The set, designed by Lydia Denno, is grand and beautiful, all of the actors have powerful voices and command the stage, they are onstage for the majority of the performance, which keeps the attention of the audience throughout.
Beauty’s father loses their family fortune, so they are forced to leave their beautiful home with servants to move to the country. The servants go along to the country home with them, unpaid, and it is unveiled that ‘cook’ is actually in charge of Beauty’s fate. When she discovers that her son is in love with Beauty she goes to extreme lengths to bring them together.
This is a true ensemble piece and all four actors deserve a mention. Darren Benedict plays Beauty’s father and the Butler in the Beast’s house, he performs well throughout and shines in some of the darker musical numbers. Julian Hoult as the Beast and Frances gives two equally fantastic character performances, he is hilarious in his rôle as Frances, the bumbling, shy young man and his interpretation of the Beast is equally as hilarious at times as it is commanding, playing the rôle with great finesse and singing beautifully. Helen Woolf is Beauty, she is perfectly cast in this rôle, she has a stunning singing voice and sings some extremely demanding songs with great ease. Last, but certainly not least is Laura Sheppard, she is a pleasure to watch throughout. She plays the ‘mumsy’ cook perfectly, has the audience laughing out loud and sings with great finesse in a number of styles.
The music, composed by Julian Butler is upbeat and catchy, with a number of styles of music throughout, this works well to change the mood and pace of the show. The choreography by Emma Annetts is tight, clever and amusing. The cast make the most of all that is available to them on stage, the set is extremely clever and is made to resemble 3 different houses. Dusters become wolves, kitchen equipment becomes a dolls house, and the audience does not question it.
This version of Beauty and the Beast really makes the most of all aspects of great family theatre. It is sure to be a hit with anyone lucky enough to catch it this holiday. This is a fun, family treat and the perfect gift from Lawrence Batley theatre this Christmas.