The Birmingham Royal Ballet turn their attention to the classic Beauty and the Beast and it fits them like a glove as it's a magical tale, full of all of the ingredients that make a fine ballet.
From the very opening scene, David Bintley's production is totally immersive and the audience are transported to a gothic castle where everything is not quite what it seems. Philip Prowse's stunning set design creates an eerie, yet at the same time - 'chocolate box' atmosphere - as we witness the beast and his staff - all seemingly trapped within the vast space.
Enter Belle (Elisha Willis) the bookish, independent - free spirit who loves to escape through her thirst for knowledge. Willis captures the spirit of the character perfectly. The opening scene features her perched on ladder - almost frozen in time - anticipating how wonderful her next read might be. The dancer glides across the stage beautifully enamouring not only the beast, but the audience, too.
There is fine support from Victoria Marr and Samara Downs as her sisters and they play the roles on the right side of garishness, whilst still retaining the delicacy required to perform in a ballet. Laura Purkiss also impresses as a jumpy vixen and Joseph Caley's Raven leads a brilliant dancing birds section which is a real highlight, as it is dark and superbly danced by the brilliant ensemble.
Bintley's choreography is memorable, as it features enough varied moments, to stop it from becoming static. Glenn Buhr's moving music has a fairy tale quality and is mesmerising. The excellent Royal Ballet Sinfonia led by conductor Paul Murphy clearly enjoy playing such stirring music and it provides the piece with life and passion.
Robert Parker's Beast is a brilliant creation because the dancer gives him a sense of menace and frustration, despite the fact that his costume resembles a mangy cat. He rises above this and his chemistry with Willis is a joy to behold.
With a great transformation scene and Mark Jonathan's evocative lighting adding darkness one minute and the dawning of a new day- the next, Birmingham Royal Ballet's Beauty and the Beast is a gorgeous rendering of a family favourite.