Reviewed by Dave Smith
Northern Light Theatre Company’s Beauty and the Beast was a great success. Director Fran Edwards presented the packed Shedley Theatre with a tightly paced, exuberant and sensitive interpretation of this well loved tale of the triumph of love over superficial appearance.
The cast was uniformly strong and carried the action with confidence and flair. Kate Dempsey played Belle perfectly, singing and acting impeccably while providing a striking emotional contrast to both her suitors. Her songs Is This Home? and A Change in Me looked and sounded beautiful. Andrew Crispe brought us a powerful Beast. He subtly showed the character’s growing sensitivity and credibility, nowhere more poignantly than in the song If I Can’t Love Her which closed Act 1.
Jason Ferguson was highly entertaining as the boorish Gaston, and was well paired with Jethro Pidd as his silly side-kick Le Fou. Other delightful groupings were the energetic and amusing Lumiere (Omkar Nagesh) and Cogsworth (James Reed), along with the lively castle characters Mrs Potts (Lisa Simonetti), little Chip (Leah Boots), Madame de la Grande Bouche (Karen Muller) and Babette (Haydee Watkin).
The whole ensemble worked well. Kerry-Lynne Hauber’s choreography was imaginative and complex. She brought excitement and joy to the songs, especially the big choruses. The complicated and crisp beer stein sequence was extraordinary. Musical Director Peter Johns successfully maintained the balance between the highly competent orchestra and the singers and dancers on stage. Choreography and music blended well, notably in the numbers Be Our Guest and Human Again.
The costumes, designed by Ann Humphries and Fran Edwards, were exceptionally inventive. The set was generally functional with some attractive scenic painting, while the projected animation with narrative voice-over was an effective opening to the action.
Beauty and the Beast was a triumph and thoroughly deserved the sustained, exuberant cheering of the opening night audience.