It is one of the greatest fairy tales ever told and became an instant Disney classic.
So the only surprise in Birkenhead Operatic Society staging it for the first time is why, in their 85th year of existence, it has taken them so long!
The story is delightfully and simply told. Bookworm Belle refuses to conform and fall at the feet of hunky Gaston and when her crackpot father is captured by a beast in the woods she trades places to save his life. The beast and his castle are enchanted by a spell that only true love can break. Inevitably Belle falls for the beast but will her love for her father or the small minded villagers get in the way of a happy ending?
The class of the music by Alan Menken and lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice shines through the entire night but the triumph of the show belongs to BOST alone.
It was a delight to hear a traditional musical theatre band – much larger than most that accompany modern musicals now.
A beautifully lit gauze illuminated by impressive pyrotechnics rises on one of many superb sets and it is clear the staging is anything but amateur.
As Belle; Laura Coard brings some much needed cheekiness to the beauty and Gareth Casey-Morris as the beast is terrifying and vulnerable, even strangely camp at times.
The Gaston and Lefou double act is delightful especially in the expertly choreographed Tavern scene.
But the magic is truly felt in the castle and the enchanted servants turned ornaments that inhabit it.
Lumiere and Cogsworth, the candlestick and clock, give the audience another hilarious double act but special praise goes to Meryl Langford as the opera singer turned wardrobe who got the biggest laugh of the night.
Be Our Guest is outstanding with the always in-tune ensemble also taking a starring role playing crockery, cutlery and even a champagne bottle.
The finale is as good as many professional productions you could care to name.
So there were a few problems with sound and scenery but it doesn’t matter. This is the only chance you will have of seeing this wonderful show with beautiful songs and BOST really show us the true heart of musical theatre.
- Peter Ruddick