BATS in Beastly Fine Voice To bring Disney's animated feature film to life on stage is a considerable task - but under Ray Jeffery's excellent direction and choreography; BATS rose to this challenge to present a magical, lively and eye-popping spectacle to delight the whole family.
As they said, the tale was as old as time. No twists, just a classic love story, set against the backdrop of a small town and a dark, yet enchanted castle in the middle of a bloodcurdling forest.
BATS offered up an incredible line-up of talented principals that would be the envy of any society. Emily Chalmers, as Belle, was utterly delightful, encapsulating the Disney character, and Jack Juniper gave an amazingly mature and strong performance, bringing out the swagger, conceit and humour of Gaston. Richard Bond equally brought out great humour as Gaston's slapstick sidekick Lefou and Mike Dyer stole our hearts and gained our sympathy as Belle's father Maurice.
Stephen Westwood's Beast commanded the stage throughout and his fine voice came to the fore in the musical numbers, but the enchanted household objects nearly stole the show as they dreamed of being human again. Ladies' man Lumiere (Nick Brannam) lit up the evening with his excellent delivery and led the ensemble in the spectacular Be Our Guest. Tracey Gonzato was warm and charming as Mrs Potts and delivered the title tune beautifully, helping to make the happy ending work. There were other very fine performances from George Tinsley (Cogsworth), Theresa Lunn (Madame de la Grande Bouche) and Chip who appeared just as a head on a trolley - magic.
There were super performances from the three 'Silly Girls' and the hard working chorus who gave their all in their various guises and in some fantastic musical numbers.
With an excellent fairy tale set, truly gorgeous costumes and an accomplished orchestra under the baton of musical director Neil Streeter, this was a feast for the eyes and ears. It is an incredibly difficult show to stage and apart from one or two small continuity and lighting glitches on the second night, it was a delightful and classy evening's entertainment.