Beauty's father is a rich merchant, but he becomes bankrupt, and is unable even to bring Beauty her gift of a single white rose. Distraught he stumbles into the grounds of a castle, and picks her a rose. But the castle belongs to the Beast and he claims one of the merchant's daughters in return for the rose. The plot is no doubt familiar because of the Disney film, now a musical in itself, as well as from the original fairy-tale. In this production the backdrop was a giant book, and turning the pages gave each new setting, palace, forest, market place and country home. The musical score echoed the scenery with recurring motifs for family and palace.
The music all came over loud speakers, from a recording. As well as the expense of live orchestras I wondered whether the timing of each move was so critical a recording was vital. As well as music a voiceover gave us snatches of plot. This was quite confusing, as sometimes it told you what had just happened, and other times what was about to happen. It also seemed unnecessary as the story is well known and the acting out was clear. On the other hand this production is aimed at all ages, and some of the younger children may have benefitted from the explanations.
Beauty, her father and the Beast came across as the best actors, showing a range of emotion. Our party felt that more caricaturing might have been better - to make Beauty's sisters more jealous, Frederick more amorous and the Beast scarier. Beast's palace inhabitants were gothic and ragged and great fun. Beast himself was long-legged and made some excellent spidery moves, but apart from eating his dinner by sticking his face in the bowl he was rather too civilised and not very menacing. On the other hand his transformation back into a Prince was fun.
All in all what the production lacked in plot it made up for in theatricality, with dry ice and superb acrobatics. It's not serious drama in any way, but then that's not the point. It's just very entertaining.