I am not ashamed to admit that Beauty & The Beast is up there with my favourite films, and so I had rather high expectations for the stage version. From the first few bars of the overture it was already clear they got the music spot on. As the lights went up on stage and the characters were introduced, it was apparent that the theme and setting were heavily based on the original Disney film, even down to the costumes of the principal characters. Although the script and musical numbers in the show were, in many places, taken straight from the film, there was enough extra material to set it apart.
Suzannah Brooksbank was an effortlessly graceful and charming Belle; she managed to personify all the classic Disney-princess-isms without being too saccharine, and had an exceptional voice. Another stand-out performer was Duncan Blagrove as the egotistical, self-assured Gaston. His performance of ‘Gaston’ in the bar with the townspeople was one of the most entertaining scenes in the production, and had me wondering why on earth Belle had turned down his hilariously misogynistic marriage proposal. Another highlight was the performance of ‘Be Our Guest’ where an array of humorous household objects parade down the stage, including a dancing carpet that was very popular with the audience.Unfortunately there were a few minor technical difficulties, particularly with the sound, which was a shame as this took away slightly from the otherwise outstanding singing. The performers did not let these minor hiccups faze them, however, and their overall performance was not marred by them.
The show did not disappoint, the music in particular was excellent, and many of the principals made the characters their own. This is the perfect Christmas treat for young and old fans of this traditional love story. Without the technical mishaps it might have been perfect.
Helen Mills (DI Reviewer), 28/11/12
The stage version of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast is essentially the same as the animated film but with added songs, and Oxford Operatic Society’s production successfully re-creates the Disney classic in this visually stunning production.
Whilst the set and costumes are impressive, the real triumph of this show lies in the cast’s performance. Suzannah Brooksbank is wonderful as Belle and has a great chemistry with the Beast (Guy Grimsley). Both leads can act as well as sing, as shown by the fact that they convincingly portray the growth of the love between the protagonists so that we truly believe in their love story, despite the fact that there is not a great deal of stage time devoted to seeing this relationship develop. Guy Grimsley is nothing short of exceptional in his deeply compelling portrayal of the Beast, something made even more impressive by the fact that he spends most of the production behind a mask. Not only that but Grimsley has the most incredible voice, I could listen to him sing all day long.
Other stand out performances come from Duncan Blagrove as Gaston and Andrew Stott as Le Fou. The parts of Lumière (Glen Young) and Cogsworth (Jeremy Dwight) are very funnily played out and special mention must also go to Catherine Temple for her portrayal of Babette: she was my seven year old niece’s “bestest favourite”. All that being said, the entire cast is very strong and only want of space denies others an individual mention.
The only thing that really detracts from the show’s overall brilliance is the final transformation of the Beast, which requires cleverer staging so that it is not so unfortunately obvious what has happened. That being said, Oxford Operatic Society did not fail to deliver that happy, warm, fuzzy Disney feeling at the end in what was, overall, a very professional feeling production. I urge you to go and see it.
Genevieve , 28/11/12