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Beauty And The Beast

Edinburgh Playhouse
3 stars
It’s interesting that Disney’s stage version of their 1991 full-length cartoon (animated feature if you will) puts such store into the power of the imagination. Because, while bookworm heroine Belle may turn her spellbound horny beast captor on to lengthy afternoons in the library, onstage at least, the work’s pretty much all been done for us.

This lavish franchise has been doing the rounds for a good few years now, and its hi-tech mix of computerised scenery and flesh and blood recreations of its animated forbears, complete with extended song and dance routines, remain undoubtedly dazzling to many of the little princesses lapping it up in the stalls. Yet, for all the multi-dimensional appeal of its regally coloured purple hues, one can’t help but feel it should be put to bed awhile to freshen up.

Because, while there’s nothing inherently wrong here, too much of the merry dance between B and B looks done by rote. With a cast restricted by the one-dimensional impersonations they’re being asked to re-create, beyond the discipline required for such a display, this is unavoidable. There are, however, signs of life, not least from Ben Harlow, whose village hunk Gaston is gloriously akin more to Zoolander than Disney, while the slick ensemble run-through Be Our Guest looks somewhere between Busby Berkely and Alice In Wonderland.

As the lead gal, Ashley Oliver is sparky enough, though she does beg the question as to why all Disney heroines sound like they’ve been given elocution lessons by Julie Andrews. Despite such reservations, the flourishes and the occasional scarifying booms of the Beast’s amplified anger make this Beauty And The Beast infinitely preferable to a small-screen DVD.

The Herald, July 20th 2007

ends

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