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Review: Beauty and the Beast at QPAC

Review by Yasmin Elahi

 

The Lyric Theatre at QPAC transformed into a fairy-tale land for the Brisbane premiere of ‘Beauty and the Beast’. The award-winning musical is composed by Alan Menken with lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice. Presented by Disney Theatrical Group, this production boasted all the magic and charm that Disney is known for.


Scenic Design by Stanley A. Meyer was extraordinary. The use of set pieces that were stylised in their design contributed to the animated, fairy-tale feel of the show. The scene changes were smooth and choreographed and the conception of the Beast’s castle was unique and incredibly effective.


Lighting design by Natasha Katz was powerful. The use of blackouts, lights directed into the audience and scrims to capture partially transparent lighting effects and shadow designs enabled the audience to feel they had stepped inside a movie. The lightning effects in the second act were incredibly realistic, as was the rain.


Costume design by Ann Hould-Ward was charming. Gaston, Belle and The Beast were all dressed in outfits that heralded back to the iconic animated feature. Belle’s yellow ballgown was breathtakingly beautiful and adorned with crystals that captured the light, making her the perfect living Disney princess. Mrs Potts and Babette’s costumes were less convincing and it would have been difficult to distinguish their objects without prior knowledge of the show. Chip’s costume was exceptional. The illusions employed to make him appear as a teacup left the audience questioning where his body had been concealed.


Director Matt West did an exceptional job with the blocking and choreography of the show. The use of the stage was clever and dynamic and each movement had purpose. The revolving balcony during ‘If I Can’t Love Her’ was a directorial highlight. The most impressive moment in the show, however, was West’s treatment of Gaston’s death. The entire audience was captivated and audible gasps were heard. The use of illusion and stagecraft in that scene must be commended.


In regard to choreography, both ‘Gaston’ and ‘Be Our Guest’ served to stop the show. The audience could not stop their applause after both of these numbers and it was not difficult to see why. The choreography of Gaston was ultra energetic, captivating and exciting. The song is long and every second was used to maximum effect. The use of metal cups as percussion was entertaining to say the least. ‘Be Our Guest’ was a pure spectacle, bringing all the best moments of Broadway in one number. The conclusion of the song saw a standing ovation from some audience members and once again, extended applause.


Musical direction by Luke Hunter was professional. The treatment of all musical numbers was classic and in keeping with the original orchestrations. The vocal blending of the ensemble was balanced and the solos were handled with tact, clarity and noticeable diction.


Shubshri Kandiah was a sweet Belle. Quickly making a name for herself as Australia’s leading lady for Disney princesses, Kandiah did not disappoint in this role. Her naivety, commitment to character and welcoming face, coupled with her lovely voice made her an instantly likeable Belle. Her rendition of ‘A Change in Me’ was a triumph.


Brendan Xavier was a tender and sensitive Beast. Perhaps less threatening and scary than one would expect for this role, Xavier brought a more human element to the role. Though at times he lacked the required menace. Vocally, Xavier commanded. His performance of ‘If I Can’t Love Her’ was flawless.


Rohan Browne brought personality and charisma as Lumiere. His interactions with Gareth Jacob’s Cogsworth brought levity and humour to the show. The pair led the story and served as quasi-narrators that the audience could build instant rapport with. Jacob’s comedic timing and impressive tap skills while stuck in that clock costume should be commended.


The star of the show was Jackson Head as Gaston. From the second he stepped onto the stage his presence was omnipotent. Physically, vocally and personality wise he captured the character perfectly. His number ‘Gaston’ was easily the standout moment and a real crowd pleaser.

Jayde Westaby encapsulated the role of Mrs Potts. Her caring nature and patience was a nice balance to the chaos of Lumiere and Cogsworth. Her handling of the title song ‘Beauty and the Beast’ was slightly contemporised while still remaining true to the original. A moving and iconic moment that Westaby pulled off expertly.


The remainder of the cast worked together as a cohesive ensemble. Each member brought 110% energy and dedication to their role and the show, resulting in a dynamic, flawless and memorable production. The use of illusions, magic, confetti and pyrotechnics enhanced the performances and resulted in a show that will not easily be forgotten. A truly breath-taking production. 


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