Beauty and the Beast

Bruce Mason Centre, Auckland

09/09/2006 - 23/09/2006

Production Details

Songs written by Alan Menken, Howard Ashman and Tim Rice
Directed by Grant Meese

Wearable props by WETA Workshop
Choreography: Rhonda Verne
Pyrotechnics: Paul Taylor
Set and costume design, and Maurice’s steam-powered mobile woodchopping machine: Stephen Robertson and Harold Moot


9, 12-16, 19-23 September, 7:30pm 10 & 17 September, 4:00pm, 16 & 23 September, 2:00pm

It’s been seen by 17 million people world-wide, it’s still running on Broadway, and now you are invited to share in the magic of this spectacular show as it comes to life on stage at the Bruce Mason Centre.

Step into the enchanted world of this modern classic. Based on the Academy Award winning animated feature, the stage version of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast includes all of the wonderful songs from the film, written by Alan Menken and the late Howard Ashman, plus new songs written especially for the Broadway version by Mr. Menken and Tim Rice.

The show begins in a French provincial town where Belle lives with her father – a dotty inventor. When her father doesn’t return from a trip to the local fair, Belle rushes off to find him. To her dismay, she discovers he is being held captive in an old castle by a horrible beast. She trades her freedom for his and the “tale as old as time” begins.

With amazing costumes designed by Weta Workshop bringing the Beast and his enchanted household items to the stage, this fantastic show promises to delight and enthrall adults and children alike!

Tickets Adult: Premium $59.00, A Res $49.00; Student: Premium $49.00, A Res $39.00; Child $39.00, Family (2 Adult, 2 Child) $137.00

Susan Edwards as Belle
James MacKay as the Beast
Steve King as Gaston
Aaron Tindell as Le Fou
John Faussett as Belle’s father Maurice
John Hellyer as Lumiere
Elaine Vaughan as Mrs Potts
Michael Greenop or Max Rogers as Chip
...and others

Live orchestra

Theatre , Children’s , Family , Pantomime , Music ,

Spirited Local Production of Disney’s Timeless Classic Franchise

Review by Nik Smythe 11th Sep 2006

The story is well known, but for those who have forgotten:  Heartless prince is put under a spell by an enchantress who he was mean to, in which he is transformed into a hideous beast.  The curse can only be broken by him finding true love by a certain deadline, which of course seems impossible due to his hard-to-love appearance and demeanour.

Presently, an old man stumbles into his castle after getting lost in the woods, and the Beast takes him prisoner for no apparent reason other than that he is bitter and angry and has not yet learnt his lesson about compassion and kindness.  When the old man’s daughter turns up looking for him, she offers herself in his place in return for her father’s freedom.  This excites the Beast and all his servants (who are slowly becoming inanimate household objects as a side effect to the curse), and they plot and plan to orchestrate this positively last chance to have their curse lifted.

How this all plays out is predictable enough, in keeping with the age-old Disney creed to give the audience exactly what they want.  What really makes or breaks a show like this, besides the impressive technical show, is the performances.  Without them the most grandiose of extravagant spectacles (which this most certainly is) would be a complete waste.

The leads carry the show well under Grant Meese’s direction.  With American accents, they fill their predetermined characters’ shoes with genuine heart.  As Belle, Susan Edwards gives us a wilfull country girl only a fraction unlike Judy Garland’s Dorothy.  She is as beautiful and charismatic as she should be, and her singing is a driving force in the music.  James MacKay’s grouchy old Beast is an admirably stout portrayal, through thick layers of obligatory prosthetics.

Supporting roles are mostly strong.  Gaston (Steve King), the egomaniacal villain and would-be suitor to Belle comes across like Peewee Herman on steroids, with strange plastic hair.  Meanwhile his sidekick Le Fou (Aaron Tindell), is amusingly energetic as the snotty obsequious coward, not on steroids. Belle’s father Maurice (John Faussett) is a more pedestrian turn, not making the meal he could have with his role as a bumbling eccentric inventor.

In the Beast’s castle, the ensemble of servants, clad in outrageous functional wearable manchester and crockery supplied by WETA workshops, deliver top notch panto.  Suave French concierge-come-candelabra Lumiere (John Hellyer) was the definite favourite, having one of the most mind-blowingly excellent costumes and all the best lines, from which he gets good mileage. He also must be strong, holding up his heavy-looking arms for the majority of the show, with giant gas lighters disguised as candles replacing his hands.

Elaine Vaughan was everyone’s favourite auntie as Mrs Potts the teapot, while her son, the charming Chip, alternately played by 12 year old Michael Greenop and 10 year old Max Rogers (I believe it was Rogers on opening night) has the crummiest acting job, being stuck for most of the show inside a teatrolley with only his face sticking out from the side of a chipped teacup.  Considering this he provides an uplifted and endearing performance, and we are all the more happy for him when he returns to humanhood in the end, if you’ll pardon the spoiler.

Rhonda Verne’s choreography, impressive in scale and executed competently for the most part, had some shaky moments.  At times the stage seems to have too many dancers, cluttering together and unable to really reach.  I also thought they were just a percent or two less than completely confident, and as the season continues they will slicken up.

The beautifully costumed wolves, who dwell in the dark creepy forest where the Beast’s castle is found, are something of an aberration.  Quite abstract in appearance, they leap about like ballerinas in a most un-frightening manner.  The closest they get to being menacing is that they annoy their prey like a bad street mime who won’t leave you alone.

Another curiosity is that the more trite the subject matter of a song, the bigger the showpiece they make of it.  Witness ‘Gaston’, an extensive analysis of Gaston’s self-importance, and ‘Be Our Guest’, probably the largest scale number in the show, in which the servants in the castle explain to Belle she is welcome to be their guest.

The production values are a highlight of the whole experience.  The live orchestra plays seamlessly, although I don’t personally care for the sentimental syrup that comprises the songs.  Paul Taylor’s pyrotechnics extract oohs and ahs on cue.  Maurice’s steam-powered mobile woodchopping machine and the whole set and costume design (Stephen Robertson, Harold Moot) are as impeccable as would be expected, though the knife and fork were out of place with a scruffy appearance which suggested the budget must have run out.  Someone also pointed out there were lots of spoons – I counted six, while only one knife and fork … It’s always the other way round in my flat.

Overall, the show is a sensational flashy stimulation fest.  With a Broadway-sized budget I’d be confident that this company could deliver a world class product.  Ultimately, while I must confess this kind of homogenous ‘McDonalds theatre’ is not my proverbial beverage, I freely admit to being entertained as much as the next lowest common denominator, and fully respect that the opening night full house audience found this particular cuppa most agreeable, indeed worthy of a standing ovation.


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