A more magical concept is hard to imagine
Opening night a real beauty
Beauty and the Beast
26th April 5th May
The curtain went down to a standing ovation, on one of the most spectacular shows the Municipal Theatre has ever seen. Costumes by WETA provided part of the spectacle, massive scenes of forest and castle, dining rooms and courtyards were another part and the fireworks and special effects added to the thrill, but the players, each and every one, took the cake.
The songs, apart from the title song, are not well known, but their staging and delivery were fantastic, blending into a tapestry of colourful exuberance, sinister foreboding, wistfulness, regret, hope and humour.
With a couple of exceptions where there were pauses before numbers began, the scenes dove-tailed smoothly into each other and each setting was a feast for the eyes. The ensemble numbers were showstoppers full of energy and beautifully balanced visually and musically. Mechanical props, fire, high wires and turning stages presented the backstage crew with a colossal task and their accomplishment was enormous and highly entertaining, involving, I suspect, extras from the fire service.
Statues, gargoyles, wolves and fairies satisfied every expectation of the beloved fairytale and the main characters, their make-up, their musicality and their interpretation, exceeded that.
A more magical concept is hard to imagine. Every castle-hold item becomes real, and every napkin, eating iron and utensil, dressed to kill, dances and cavorts in extravagant scenes that glitter with fun and excitement.
As the Beast, Jackson MacFarlane was moving, never quite terrifying, but a tragic figure. As Belle, Stephanie Bishop’s powerful and controlled singing voice and lovely face were perfect but there was room to develop more pathos at the moments of true tragedy. Peter Drower as Gaston, was sensational, looking and acting quite the villain. Dave Richardson was a delightful and highly dangerous candelabra, although his accent was un petit inconsistent, and Jane Pierard, full of surprises, an enjoyable wardrobe. Costumes, especially Mrs Potts, (Tessa May Brown, whose confident voice gave us the title song) were seemingly effortlessly worn, a further credit to the actors who wore them and still managed to execute the dance steps. Other characters embellish the story with extremes of wickedness or innocence and William Waitoa as Monsieur DArque excelled as did the giggly dancing admirers of Gaston.
Briar Horrocks choreography was clever and creative, employing the varying degrees of dancing skill, taking each cast member to the utmost, achieving a triumph of coherence that was lovely from every angle.
There were some very high notes in the wind section of the orchestra in the overture but everything softened and blended when the curtains rose. Over all, this is a huge show that is one piece of magic after another with a powerful story to tell, guaranteed to thrill its audience.
Photo caption – MAGICAL: The spectacular show was a hit last night as Napier’s Municipal Theatre came alive
HBTODAY PICTURE: ANDREW LABETT