The show is a visual treat. Beautiful projections of moving clouds and gigantic bright moons fill the stage.
The show is a visual treat. Beautiful projections of moving clouds and gigantic bright moons fill the stage. Fierce storms and crashing ships and howling wolves come to life with traditional and enjoyable shadow puppetry. The Beast looks utterly fantastic and the costumes and set, designed by Laura McEwen, dazzle. But elements hold this production back. The lighting, whilst beautiful in parts, particularly with gloriously colourful sunrises, at times feels unimaginative, often leaving the stage generally lit and missing opportunities for visual flare that could lift the excitement. The energy often drops in lengthy scenes with period drama dialogue that lose momentum and make this two act show feel quite long for young children.
This is a traditional production and should form as a solid means to provide a live production of a beloved classic to the family. But for a production aimed at six to twelve year olds there is a lack of immersion and magic to really pull the young audiences in. At times it feels a little dated. It’s so rooted in traditional children’s entertainment it sometimes feels like you’ve stepped back into the 80’s and you’re watching a cross between of Labyrinth and Crystal Maze. That’s due in part to the extravagant costumes and the traditional fairy-tale set but also a synth-soundtrack that sounds like it's straight out of the videogame, Zelda. Then there are the moments when Belle is sleepwalking or sleepdancing and the show suddenly looks like the Kate Bush Wuthering Heights music video.
These aren’t completely bad points – all these things are pretty fun and for the grownups it might provide a nice nostalgia trip to enjoy alongside the little ones. But it does make the show sadly feel dated and lack that magical freshness which new shows like Polka’s studio show, Beast Baby provide.
Nevertheless, this is a good way to enjoy a classic fairy-tale live and is a fun afternoon out for the family. The show redeems itself with some excellent moments and the beautiful visuals and it comes into its own when Belle and Beast finally meet. A particularly fun moment of their interactions is in a very funny scene where the two attempt a musical duet and are, hilariously, not great. Their interactions are touching and enjoyable and the Beast looks great with a strong physical performance from Jason Eddy as The Beast. Whilst Andy Chevalier brings a wonderful energy to his scenes as the Gaston-but with a heart character of Mr. Knightly.
Polka’s Beauty & Beast is a solid production of a cherished classic. It’s just not as magical as you might have hoped for.