Beauty and the Beast (Gordon Craig Theatre, Stevenage
Confronting Leanne Jones as the not-always completely audible Fairy Formidable is the splendid Bernie Nolan as Fairy Malevolent. This shimmering black-clad enchantress topped with a fantasy of silvered hair has the audience just where she wants them – booing as loudly as possible at her every utterance. She also sings extremely well.
Then there’s our sweet heroine, Beauty herself. Rachel Jerram gives her dignity as well as goodness and puts over her ballads with charm as well as sincerity. The somewhat anti-hero is Prince Gallant, who Simon Pontin plays as a preening nincompoop until Malevolent takes her revenge for his rejection of her. As the Beast, he then commands a degree of pity – the transformation scenes and the flying sequence which brings the first act to a conclusion are both very well handled (cue lots of dry ice).
Poor Graham James as Jean Jacques, Beauty’s father, really doesn’t have much to do except help the plot along. Paul Laidlaw has the audience in the palm of his/her hands as Dame Derrière, sporting an outrageous selection of tricolore satins and the most coquettish of berets. Chris Clarkson is an engaging Potty Pierre, suitably dim-witted as well as likeable, particularly in the plate-breaking scene.