David Nixon’s Beauty and the Beast is just that. He has choreographed this favourite fairy tale sensitively and with humour, bringing it to life in an unforgettable way. This production had its world premier in Leeds in December 2011 so is a fairly recent addition to the Northern Ballet’s repertoire - but what a fantastic one!
It tells the story, in almost silent movie – style, of the self-obsessed and pompous Prince Orian – wonderfully danced by Kenneth Tindall – who is so busy pleasure seeking that he can’t be bothered when an apparently aged woman comes to the castle begging for food. He is rude and insolent to her and encourages his sycophantic guests to do the same until suddenly she throws off her cloak and reveals herself as the fairy La Fee Magnifique – beautifully danced by Victoria Sibson. Magnifique then places a curse on the prince and says that is he is so obsessed with the way he looks he will be turned into a beast. The prince looks in the mirror and finds that he has now turned into The Beast – danced by Giuliano Contadini with great agility and feeling. At that moment Magnifique’s sister La Fee Luminiaire (Hannah Bateman) - appears with a rose for the Beast and shows him that if he can fall in love and be loved the spell will be broken and he will return to normal.
The action then switches to a rich mansion where Beauty – sensitively danced by Martha Leebolt - lives with her father – Darren Goldsmith and her two sisters, Chantelle (Jessica Morgan) and Isabelle (Pippa Moore). These two make a wonderfully funny comic duo and there are some very funny moments in this scene as the sisters come back from a shopping spree with piles of boxes and bags and then present the lengthy bill to their father, and then the bailiffs appear and strip everything from the house including the clothes the two sisters are wearing!
Beauty of course ends up at the Beast’s palace.
This production really is enchanting. David Nixon’s choreography and direction bring the story to life and he brings out the humour as well as the poignancy of the story. The sets designed by Duncan Hayler are wonderful – appearing simple yet beautifully effective and very much enhanced by Tim Mitchell’s sensitive lighting. Julia Anderson has done an excellent job with the costumes which add to the richness and lavishness of the performanc.
The music has been skilfully chosen from pieces by the French composers – Saint-Saens, Bizet, Debussy, Poulenc and Glazunov, then superbly arranged by John Longstaff and executed by a small orchestra, conducted by John Pryce-Jones.
All the dancers from principals to chorus are excellent, each one bringing something different to the ballet. We can really feel the anger and despair of the Beast, the fear turning gradually to love awakening in Beauty, and the contrasting fairy sisters showing the good and darker side of mankind!
The whole flows together to leave a wonderful feeling of contentment and magic for all. This one will appeal to all age groups from 7 upwards and definitely a show to bring the whole family to see. If you get the chance to go, seize it with both hands – I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.