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On stage in Disney Beauty and the Beast are (from left) Lumiere (played by Aaron Segar, Mrs Potts (Anita Dawson) and Cogsworth (Greg Davis).

SOUTH CANTERBURY DRAMA LEAGUE
Disney Beauty and the Beast
Timaru Theatre Royal
September 21-29
Review by GORDON PROWSE

Superb production!

Beauty and the Beast, the Disney musical, now being staged in the Theatre Royal, is an outstanding production, a genuine tour de force for the South Canterbury Drama League, and one of its very best ever annual major productions.

The Brothers Grimm would be enthralled to see their well-known European folk tale come to life so wonderfully onstage.

Director Denise Henderson has performed miracles in bringing this romance to such life; she has a great cast and crew to work with, of course, but the seamless and exciting unrolling of the plot is kudos to her, and she richly deserves all the accolades she gets.

The set, costumes and props are all magnificent, but the human factor animates the script, and it is here that Ms Henderson has excelled.

Her work is enhanced by choreographer Jo Wedlake and by musical director Rob Martin, but the scene-stealers are the cast members.

Belle herself, played by Georgia Carnegie, personifies innocence with a backbone, and her voice soars as she unravels her complex character.

Cam Sutcliffe as the Beast, in an equally demanding role, has a great stage presence as he gradually reveals his true self as the symbolic red rose slowly decays in his lair.

Right up there are the support players – the arrogant egotist Gaston (Alec Muir), his sidekick, the ever nimble Le Fou (Nathan Butler) and Belle’s father himself, Maurice (Matt Learnihan) from the village, along with the “Silly Girls”, whose twittering and swooning antics are brilliant if not quite PC in these days of remembering Kate Sheppard.

From the enchanted castle came a tranche of wonderful characters, some seemingly coming from Alice in Wonderland, and these include, impressively, Cogsworth the pendulum clock (Greg Davis), Lumiere the candelabra (Aaron Segar), the voluminous Wardrobe (Ella Thomas), the elegant Mrs Potts (Anita Dawson) and her son Chip (Sam Roadley and Nico Lee), the sexy feather duster Babette (Victoria Chappell), and, in a late cameo, Monsieur d’Arque (Shardous Wynen).

The whole gorgeous ensemble, of women mostly, moves and sings as one, the wolf pack snarls and moves with great realism, and they all double as villagers. The enchantress (Charlotte Howe) plays a special role, accompanied initially by fireworks and a remarkable flight.

The tunes are given with due vigour and empathy, and the sound effects from Audio Dynamite are excellent; the lighting effects grew in intensity, and the stage crew were unobtrusive but obviously essential and perfectionist.

The set is simply spectacular, thanks to Mark Lowen and his helpers. Honestly, this is a wonderful show in every aspect, so congratulations are due to everyone involved.