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Newbury Operatic Society - Beauty and the Beast

12th to 16th April 2011.

Review from the Newbury Weekly News.

A sprinkling of stardust

Newbury Operatic Society: Disney's Beauty and the Beast, at the Corn Exchange, from Tuesday, April 12 to Saturday, April 16

As I waited for the curtain to rise, that phrase about treading softly because you tread on my dreams came into my mind. The small, curly-haired girl in the seat in front of mine was dressed up for this special theatre trip and full of wonder, and I hoped that this latest Newbury Operatic Society production would not damage her joy in fairy tales.

I need not have worried. This was a fine and magical show.

A reviewer always has difficulty in giving credit without turning the piece into a list of names. With such a large cast I will simply say that there was not a weak link either in principal roles or the lively chorus numbers. Nevertheless there are those who deserve particular praise. Clare Butler's lovely voice suited the role of Belle and Martin Rogers made an effective Beast, alternately exciting fear and compassion.

For me, however, the stars of this production were Richard George as a gloriously conceited Gaston, striding about the stage with his sidekick Lefou (a brilliant performance from Aiden Strickland) and Jon Lovell revealing a great talent for comedy in the role of Lumière and leading the company in a fantastically intricate, hilarious Be Our Guest. This last was just one of the slick routines choreographed by Nicola Rogers to whom my congratulations.

Then there was Paul Hyde as Belle's deliciously rural Dad, Maurice, in No Matter What, Helen Bonner as the tea-potted Mrs Potts singing the title song sensitively and warmly, some eerily realistic and fearsome slithery wolves (great costumes), the delightfully daft group of Silly Girls and... oh dear, this is turning into a list.

It was a brave decision by NOS to take on this much loved fairy-tale, not only because of the cost involved, and I had my doubts beforehand as to whether they could pull it off. Undoubtedly they did and it will go down on my files as one of the best NOS productions I have seen. With Jeremy Mann directing and Michael Evans, as always a stalwart in charge of the excellent orchestra, this was a production which must have sent that curly-haired tot home with stars in her eyes.