Beauty & the Beast – Lyric Theatre – Review
Until 6th January 2018
The timeless tale of Beauty and the Beast gets the rock-opera treatment in the Lyric Theatre’s fun and infectious family Christmas show.
In a clever updating to the well-known tale, The Beast was once an aspiring singer-songwriter who made a deal with a youth-obsessed music producer Shazza. He got the only thing he ever wanted – musical super-stardom in return for being turned into a beast. But now, despite the many albums and world tours, he is monstrous and alone, living in the dark in his mansion, unable to write another song. Bella is trying to find her own voice after the death of her mother, so when she gets a job as the Beast’s long-suffering assistant, sparks are sure to fly.
This production of Beauty and the Beast is essentially a pantomime stripped of its excess. The set design is simple but effective, with a grand piano, a movable circular stage and some clever back projection creating the varied scenes.
Paul Boyd directs his cast of just four with assurance throughout this well-paced production. Charlotte McCurry is a likeable and confident presence as the open and forthright Bella, whose fluorescent yellow hair bow and shoelaces replace that iconic yellow ball gown. Orla Gormley’s Shazza may not reach the heights of true panto villainy but her costume changes alone are worth the price of admission. Ross Hoey is transformed into the biker jacket-clad Beast courtesy of stilts and some voice changing software that sometimes makes his lines hard to decipher, but his performance sweetly captures the melancholy nature of the artist trapped within the body of the star.
However, it is Mark Dugdale, as Bella’s father with musical dreams of his own, who steals the show. As Theo, a multi-jobbing jack-of-all-trades and master of none, (particularly when it comes to piloting a helicopter) his infectious enthusiasm, strong singing voice and perfect comic timing lifts every scene he is in and provides most of the laughs for the adults in the audience.
What raises this production beyond the usual Christmas theatrical fayre are the excellent songs by Katie Richardson – perfect pop numbers with a strong 80s vibe which tip the hat to Meatloaf (A Rockin’ Hard Place), the Eurythmics (Give Me Your Applause) and even those novelty songs of Black Lace (The Pizza Song). It helps that all the cast are strong singers, although at times the backing track overwhelms the vocals, particularly during the quieter numbers.
The two six year olds who came along with me declared the show ‘fantastic’ and ‘funny’ and their attention never wavered. Beauty and the Beast is hugely enjoyable family entertainment for all ages, nimbly mixing sparky performances, good old-fashioned storytelling and catchy unforgettable tunes.
Produced by the Lyric Theatre
Mark Dugdale – Theo
Orla Gormley – Shazza
Ross Hoey – The Beast
Charlotte McCurry – Bella
Derek O’Connor & Trevor J. Colgan – Writers
Paul Boyd – Director
Katie Richardson – Original Score & Lyrics
Ciaran Bagnall – Lighting & Set Designer
Diana Ennis – Costume Designer
Deborah Maguire – Choreographer