Thursday, April 28, 2011

Beauty and the Beast -Review- Tyne Theatre

Beauty and the Beast
Tyne Theatre
New World Productions
April 27 2011

There is always too much going on in the Hunter household at Christmas for Pantomime viewing, so when I knew New World Productions were touring with Beauty and the Beast four months into the new year, I then thought I would hit upon the publicity department of the company for a press review ticket.
Beauty and the Beast is the classic pantomime tale of love conquering all, man and beast combining to bring song, dance and entertainment.

I had been to the Tyne Theatre a week or so before to see the fab West End Operatic Society in performance with the musical version of The Full Monty. This was a full of life and glitzy show from the Newcastle amateur society, so I was in a good place (reviewing wise) this coupled with the fact that my first ever crit, was the brilliant Jonathan Ansell in Whistle Down The Wind at The City Hall. Ansell that night took my breath away with his acting and vocal skills, so was looking forward to almost a year on in both of our lives.
With children chomping on popcorn, fiddling with their obligatory flashing hair bands and plastic swords we settled down to the promised feast of fun and excitement.
Starting off with some fine moves from the professional dancers, Tom Swift - playing Jaques - came on and did his introductions, telling joke after joke and interacting with the audience. I like slapstick humour at the best of times, but some of it was a little below the belt. Many of the parents that I saw were shocked at some of the adultness on display...more of that later!
Fairy Feathers played by TV's Danielle McCormack popped up every now and then looking very glamorous, giving us the premise of the show. Her performance was clean and crisp.
Mellisa Suffield - who of course played Lucy Beale in Eastenders for six years, was billed as one of the star attractions of the show - played Beauty. I enjoyed her screen role, so was looking for a tip top performance! This never really came to fruition for me, although she did have a good vocal range on the few songs that she sung. Mellisa should have been the belle of the ball, but with stage timings of just under two hours she was hardly prominent. With lowest ticket prices being £15 for children this was very disappointing.
Andy Fleming playing Baron Bourbon lifted spirits somewhat with a good performance. His great impressions and tomfoolery shone through to the half full audience.
The other star of the show, ex G4 and X Factor finalist Jonathan Ansell, playing the Beast had a mix matched showing. His furry character was a bit sober and a bit all over the place, again disappointing!
Well before the interval I witnessed a lot of poor acting, this was felt around the audience as a lot of parents led their children away, they didn't reappear after curtain up. I must admit I was going to do the same, but the saving grace was Ansell singing "Somebody to love". His vocal on this was superb and took me back to The City Hall. I thought all was saved. The second half would be a triumph. I was wrong.
As I mentioned before a lot of the humour and the obvious holes in the script was lost on the kids, a lot of them only laughed when their parents sniggered at the adult slapstick, which is isn't right surely!
I am glad that I did stay for the second half as I got chatting to some of the audience, who like me were a tad disappointed by the whole showing - too cheesy by far.
Beauty and the Beast is a magical story, but there was definitely more beast than beauty on offer tonight.

Michael Hunter

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