Beauty and the Beast
Adapted by Steve Hawes with music by Stephen Solloway
The Haymarket Basingstoke
Beauty and the Beast at the Haymarket is an alternative to the plethora of pantomimes that abound.
This is not the saccharine-coated Disney version that most of the very young audience will have seen but a much darker, slower and more sinister production.
Steve Hawes's adaption is perhaps a little wordy to capture the concentration of the little ones and Stephen Solloway’s music, recorded by the Brodowski Quartet, is melodic but repetitive.
The set design is simple, using a revolve stage to reveal the Beast’s castle and the hovel that the family lives, in but it disappointingly lacks attention to detail and is ponderously slow and used to excess, turning at every possible occasion.
The two puppet deer are a nice touch and act as narrators and the kids love them.
The vain Prince has been cursed and turned into a Beast for refusing to marry the Empress of the forest and has to remain as a beast until he finds someone who truly loves him in spite of his appearance.
Oliver Stoney has the dual role of playing the Prince and the Beast wearing a huge horned head mask that is more beautifully groomed than scary but he does manage to rouse the audience’s sympathy towards the end.
Maurice, the father, gets lost in the wood and picks the perpetual rose from the Beast’s garden that he was saving for his love and is imprisoned by the Beast who eventually agrees to release him if one of his daughters is substituted.
The father (Mark Rawlings) returns home where his two selfish, petulant daughters Matilda (Dani McCallum) and Harriet (Jo Castleton) are desperate to find husbands. Their caterwauling provides the comic contrast that is needed to balance the darkness of the Beast.
But it is Beauty, the delightful Anne-Marie Piazza who gives a sincere and captivating performance, who agrees to go and stay with the Beast.
Nick Underwood is impressive as the sympathetic Crow and gives a super cameo performance as the Italian tailor.
Beauty slowly falls in love with Beast despite her sisters’ efforts to keep her from him.
There are some touches of magic when Beauty persuades the Beast to free the butterflies with some delightful animation projected onto the backcloth.
Beauty and the Beast can be a most enchanting show but unfortunately director Paul Chamberlain’s Beauty is a disappointing lacklustre production.
Beauty and The Beast runs until the 31st December
Reviewer: Robin Strapp