Book by Anna Ledwich
Music & Lyrics by Richard Taylor
Director Dale Rooks
Chichester Festival Youth Theatre
2017 production streaming free from Chichester Festival Theatre’s website to 19 June
Reviewed by Len Power 3 June 2020
The original story of Beauty and the Beast was written by Gabrielle-Suzanne de Villeneuve in 1740. A shortened version of the tale was published in 1756 by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont. Beaumont pared down the list of characters of Beauty and the Beast and simplified the story to transform it into a quintessential fairy tale. This is the version that readers are most familiar with.
It tells the tale of a prince cursed and transformed into a hideous beast and the young woman imprisoned by him in his castle who grows to love him in spite of his appearance.
The 2017 Chichester Festival Youth Theatre production has been adapted from the original story by Anna Ledwich. It has original music and lyrics by Richard Taylor. and it has been impressively directed by Dale Rooks with lots of character depth and skill in moving so many players around this stage.
This is a high standard and elaborate production with a large cast of performers aged under 25. Everyone in the cast right down to the massive ensemble has notable stage presence and performs the show with energy and fine singing and dancing.
The striking production design by Simon Higlett is colourful and makes good use of the revolving stage. It’s complemented by a moody lighting design by James Whiteside. The costume design by Ryan Dawson Laight is excellent with lots of quirky characters spectacularly and originally dressed. The show requires multiple costume changes and with the size of the cast, it must have involved designing hundreds of costumes.
The music and lyrics by Richard Taylor are charming with a couple of big numbers performed with gusto by the full cast as well as some appealing solos and duets by the leading players.
The major leads of Beauty and the Beast are performed and sung with great appeal by Mia Cunningham-Stockdale and Hal Darling respectively.
Nick Barnes has designed a massive puppet for the Beast that is very impressive. Hal Darling as the Beast works inside the puppet and creates the perfect illusion of this fearsome but strangely appealing character. His transformation at the end of the show back to human form is cleverly done.
This is a fine show that will captivate children and adults alike. It’s available for free streaming from the Chichester Festival Theatre’s website until the 19th of June.
Len Power’s reviews are also broadcast on the Artsound FM 92.7 ‘In the Foyer’ program on Mondays and Wednesdays at 3.30pm.
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