All that glitters is beastly;Theatre

23rd May 1997 at 01:00
Beauty and the Beast. Dominion Theatre, London

I can confirm without snigger or smirk that the magic does come alive on stage, just as all the publicity posters for the musical Beauty and the Beast gush, gurgle and gasp.

This Disney extravaganza is, well, extravagant. It is reputedly the most expensive London West End musical ever, and I can well believe it. The sets are pulse-quickening, the lighting inspired, the choreographed numbers unlike anything seen since the days of Busby Berkeley, the costumes by turn witty and blinding in their glitterosity.

So . . . what's the catch? Well, if you must know, Uncle Walt has kind of ruined the story. Not known for his post-Freudian interpretations, this Beauty, based on the animated feature, is a cracking good family musical, but bears more of a resemblance to Oklahoma! than to the original fairytale.

In this version, there are no shadows, no ambiguities. The Beast, hirsutely played by Alasdair Harvey, is either beastly or childish, but not poignant in his pain. Julie-Alanah Brighten as Belle is briskly bookish, unprepared to suffer fools gladly - and especially the gormless Gaston, whose all-American male ego just won't let him take no for an answer. "We shall be the perfect pair," he insists to Belle, "rather like my thighs." Top of the many enchanted props is Derek Griffiths as the luminescent Lumi re, a candlestick with a delicious Inspector Clouseau accent.

Bring Christmas forward a bit. Get down to the Dominion.

Tickets: 0171 416 6060

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