It’s been a very long time since this reviewer has walked out of a theatre at the end of a show with tears in his eyes and a lump in his throat. But that is what happened after experiencing Adelaide Youth Theatre’s wonderful production of Disney’s Beauty And The Beast.
Although the Disney version of a prince who is turned into a beast by a sorceress until he can find someone who will love him for himself rather than his looks, and before an enchanted rose drops all its petals, has a natural warmth and feel of romance about it, those emotions seem to soar when handled by a group of talented young people.
This production certainly takes off, due in no small part to director, Paula Williams. This may be Williams’ directorial debut, but her many years of on-stage theatrical experience shows, especially in the humour and knowing what captivates an audience. She has also added some very clever touches of her own – especially, the beautiful portrayal of the enchanted rose and the genius and simplicity of the transformation of beast into prince. This reviewer knew the trick, but could not spot the execution: sometimes, simple is by far the best.
Two other production team members who know their stuff are choreographers, Alana Shepherdson and Thomas Phillips. Their dance routines vary from the simple and elegant through to the great energy and mug-clinking showmanship of the Gaston number.
Kristy Williamson and her orchestra handle the rather complex score expertly (from the confines of Star Theatres’ smaller theatre next door), while Joshua Aspinall and Logan Niblock provide atmospheric projected backgrounds.
The huge ensemble is great and it is so nice to see so many smiles during the big chorus numbers and routines (a big ‘plus’ where this reviewer is concerned). However, there are definitely standout performances: the biggest is from Emma Kavanagh as Belle – a glorious young star shooting towards professional Musical Theatre. She is supported nicely by Angus Heida as the Beast. Heida manages the complexities of his songs well – especially the Act One closing number. The chemistry and emotions from these two performers are absolutely marvellous.
Serena Martino-Williams as Mrs Potts starts the rush for tissues with her lovely rendition of the title song. Alastair Correll plays self-absorbed Gaston to perfection, and is ably assisted by energetic Sebastien Skubala as sidekick Le Fou’
Oscar Bridges is a cute Chip: Lucas Horta and Jessica Muenchow are fun as Lumiere and Cogsworth respectively; Camryn Jordans is absolutely hilarious as the Wardrobe; Sophie Guidolin is a delightfully French Babette; Rory Adams plays Belle’s father with charm and gentle eccentricity; while Luke Wolianksyj is sensationally sinister as D’Arque (and he is!).
These school holidays have already proved what a pool of amazing young talent there is to be found in Adelaide with such shows as Mighty Good’s Teen Dream and Pelican Productions’ Chitty Chitty Bang Bang – AYT’s Disney’s Beauty And The Beast only amplifies and adds weight to this.
Reviewed by Brian Godfrey
Photo: Courtesy of Tim Allan