Following on from the truly magnificent Little Red Riding Hood (2015) and the hilarious Gingerbread Mix-Up (2016), I was excited to hear that the Lyric theatre would be giving Beauty and the Beast - one of my favourite fairy tales - a fun twist this festive period.
The story, adapted for the Lyric by writers Derek O’Connor and Trevor J. Colgan, tells the tale of a once sweet-natured singer-songwriter who is played by Ross Hoey (The Commitments, We Will Rock You). Desperate to achieve the fame, fortune and stardom he had always wanted, Hoey makes a deal with the all-powerful, all-controlling music producer Shazza (played fantastically by Orla Gormley) who makes all his dreams come true, but at a high price. In true Frankenstein style, his voice suddenly becomes deep and distorted as he turns wretchedly into The Beast – the furry, beastly creation of powerhouse Shazza.
We soon meet the energetic Theo, played by Mark Dugdale, who is a seemingly zany, job-juggling single dad. Bouncing about the stage, his infectious cheery demeanour, quick-witted quips and songs about pizza soon have the younger audience members in raucous laughter. Fame-hungry but well-meaning, he encourages his fearless daughter Bella (Charlotte McCurry), to become the beast’s assistant and, becoming increasingly worried about her father’s workaholic behaviour, she reluctantly agrees.
As the two tussle, it becomes apparent that the brusque demeanour of The Beast has no effect on the intrepid Belle who is all too willing to stand up to him and his ludicrous demands. With The Beast suffering a year long dry spell of music creation and Bella struggling to rediscover her relinquished passion for singing after the passing of her mum, to the sympathetic audience, it becomes apparent that these two misfits are simply trying to find their own place in the world.
The back-and-forth witticisms that frequently take place between the two are perfectly timed and delivered and as Belle slowly uncovers the Beast’s softer side, the pair create some of the most memorable moments of the show, with their exhilarating exchanges and duets, including, “Maybe All I Need’s a Muse”, (a musical highlight for me).
The fashionista in me loved Shazza’s fabulously fancy costumes – we’re talking protuberant hips, futuristic headpieces and brightly coloured beads as Diane Ennis gives a very obvious nod to the 80s. I also loved The Beast’s costume – pretty wow with his stilts (and a nod goes to Hoey for walking around the stage in them throughout). I didn’t love Belle and Theo’s costumes so much – too tacky for me, but then, maybe that was the point of them!
But, back to the 80s inspo – this is the same decade where my friend and composer Katie Richardson also gets a lot of her musical inspiration from – think Grease, Beach Boys and George Michael. The power ballads that take place throughout the show successfully showcase the extraordinary talent of this small cast of 4. And by pairing this timeless tale with such an enchanting score, this exhilarating family production will have audiences of all ages enthralled. With electric guitars, drums and plenty of bass, director Paul Boyd certainly gives this classic tale some major rock and roll treatment!
Special mention has to go to Ciaran Bagnall who created the incredible revolving set (which is also the base of the set for the adult show currently running at the Lyric ‘What The Reindeer Saw’.
The well-written script gives the well-loved French fairy-tale a modern makeover and whilst little ones can enjoy the funny retorts and fervent acting, the more mature of us are left to explore the deeper messages hidden within the narrative tackling issues such as grief and our insatiable quest to ‘have it all’.
Music, mayhem and tonnes of hidden innuendos that fly hilariously over the heads of the innocent little ones, writers Derek O’Connor and Trevor J. Colgan have given this well-loved classic a hilariously thrilling rock and roll twist! Combined with a powerful soundtrack, talented cast and tale filled with humour this play really does have it all.
The star of the show? For me, it was Orla Gormley as Shazza. An excellent performance.