Beauty and the Beast reviews

Beauty and the Beast, LeedsGrand Theatre, Leeds
Val Pennant, Wharfedale Observer
25 November 2010

With Beauty and the Beast, the society has another resounding success on its hands. But what a huge task it took on – it is technically demanding, as a few blips on the opening night exposed. Costumes were magnificent, colourful and eye-catching, and they lit up the stage. Sets too looked great. My favourite costume had to be the fairytale ball gown of Belle. How the children in the audience must have loved these costumes – the teapot, the wardrobe, the clock and the knives and forks.

The society is so lucky to have the Grand Theatre as its home, the stage lending itself to this enormous and dazzling show. Apart from a vague memory of the story, I had no idea what to expect. And for a time it appeared that it was more pantomime than musical. Then the wow factor set in and the fairytale of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast took hold. Louise Denison, the society’s director choreographer since 2003, had the exacting job of making the show work and her direction was once again impressive.

In the fairytale roles of Beauty (Belle) and the Beast who returns to his princely self because of Belle’s love, Gemma Durkin and Joe Mellor delighted. Gemma has played parts with Yeadon Amateurs and Ilkley Upstagers, Joe has also played with Ilkley Upstagers. Gemma sang beautifully and Joe dealt convincingly with the complex role of Beast. He had a strong singing voice and his was a moving and well-thought-out performance.

Three other performances stood out. Cogsworth the Clock (Simon Field), Lumiere the Candelabra (Ben Walton) and particularly Mrs Potts the Teapot (Tracy Ford). Mrs Potts had the unenviable task of pulling around a tea trolley containing, it has to be said, the utterly gorgeous and talented little boy, Oscar Thomas-Sanders as Chip.

Comedy was provided by Gaston, an Elvis look-alike, played by Richard Blackburn, and Lefou, played by Richard Billings. A touching performance came from Michael Johnson as Maurice, Belle’s father. Cathy Purcell, Babette, and Jane Robinson, Madame Grande Bouche (the Wardrobe), both gave accomplished and enjoyable performances. Beauty and the Beast was a spectacular production and received standing ovations on the first night. This Leeds Amateurs extravaganza was truly a winner.

Amateur at its very best
Dave Nicholls, Wakefield Express

26 November 2010

Leeds Amateur Operatic Society has once again proved top quality audience-pleasing performances do not have to be reserved for the full-time thespian.The group pulled off an entertaining version of Disneys Beauty and the Beast at the Grand last week, with glimpses of professional elements shining through.

And despite a few opening-night hiccups, the team finished to a standing ovation from the pleased regulars who have probably supported LAOS for many a year and it was easy to see why.

The ripping of a drape midway through a scene-change, the collapsing of a chair as it was brought onto the stage and a hat falling from a character’s head during a song was all part and parcel of an amateur production and it is what we all love about our local theatres.

These small glitches did not take anything away from a polished performance by a very talented cast.. Gemma Durkin, who played leading lady Belle, had an exceptional voice, hitting all the high notes every time. Her on-stage chemistry with the Beast, played by Joe Mellor, made the fairytale story believable.

To not mention everyone by name is a shame, but due to space, the pick of the bunch were comical appearances by Ben Walton as Lumiere, Simon Field as Cogsowrth, Richard Blackburn as Gaston and Richard Billings as Lefou.

One of the best choreographed scenes was a complicated drinking routine in the tavern in which drinkers clunked tankards together in time with a song and dance. Well done LAOS.

Imperfectly good

Rod McPhee, Yorkshire Evening Post 
18 November 2010

Costume malfunctions, tearing scenery, wayward props and clumsy set changes – it’s all in a night’s work for Leeds Amateur Operatic Society. To be fair, we usually get better than this. LAOS were victims to a spot of bad luck on their opening performance but, overall, no one cared a fig. It’s easy to put the boot in on an organisation like this giving their rendition of Beauty and the Beast, particularly Disney’s version.

The monstrous lead was supposed to be a terrifying figure but appeared here like the lovechild of Amy Whitehouse and a Klingon general. But since they appeared to be doing it for the kids, most of the kids in the audience seemed to be having a great time.

The performances were reasonable enough and the execution of the overall staging were pretty impressive too, save for the odd hitch here and there. You have to admire LAOS for the sheer ambition and conviction shown in putting on a show which has to follow Disney’s strict requirements. Which explains why virtually all of the costumes looked fantastic, particularly the main supporting characters of Lumiere, Mrs Potts and Cogsworth who were the trio that essentially ensured this was greater than the sum of the parts.

The biggest hurdle facing the society was adhering to the animated version, which means trying to reproduce the look of the Disney movie on stage. It’s a tough call, but they went some way to achieving it, though the delivery was far from perfect and it wasn’t up to the usual standard of LAOS either.

The dance sections were passable and the vocals adequate enough not to leave the audience cringing in their seats. Faint praise? Maybe. But perhaps the greatest praise affordable here is that you left the Grand feeling elated. Many a more professional, obscure children’s production (this reviewer has endured a few) can leave you feeling bewildered and indifferent. But LAOS’ s Beauty and the Beast was a hearty chunk of schmaltz which they made a good enough stab at.

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