Why We Loved Northern Ballet's Beauty & The Beast at Newcastle Theatre Royal
Newcastle Theatre Royal was scattered with rose petals and sprinkled with fairy dust for Northern Ballet's Beauty & The Beast
Beauty & the Beast tells the story of Beauty, who selflessly leaves her father and two sisters to live with a hideous Beast in his castle in exchange for her father’s life. As time goes by, she grows strangely fond of her host. He was once a handsome prince cursed for his vanity and arrogance – but the curse can be broken by true love.
Far from the well-loved Disney adaption, this show features fairies, goblins and sprites but it has far more humour than you might expect from a Northern Ballet production. That’s largely thanks to Beauty’s two sisters. In act one, their reckless spending leads to them losing their home – as well as their clothes. You have to be there, but it had the audience in fits of giggles. The sheer confidence of the suitors and the clumsiness of goblins continue this playfulness throughout the performance.
The set plays a huge part in piecing the show together, from the revolving mirror (from which the prince exits and the beast enters) to the huge removal truck and the castle’s interior. Clever lighting means the scene changes are seamless. The props are key too and although there’s no ‘Be Our Guest’ moment, there was a nod to it when the beast sits with Beauty for dinner – with a candle and silverware being incorporated into the dancer’s moves. But what really elevated this ballet was the haute couture-style costumes.
The role of Beauty was brilliantly cast and she put on a faultless performance, but the star of the show for us was the beast. His choreography really made you believe every emotion he was feeling and he must have serious strength and balance to pull off some of the lifts he had with Beauty. He was particularly mesmerising in a dance with the prince and beauty (a sort of battle between his two selves).
With so much happening on stage, humour and emotion in equal measure, and Northern Ballet’s classic storytelling, this is a ballet that audiences of all ages will enjoy, and potentially a great introduction to ballet. Beauty & The Beast premiered in 2011 to critical acclaim and was a firm favourite with Newcastle Theatre Royal audiences when it was last performed by the Company in 2016. Its welcome return certainly didn’t disappoint.
Passionate applause filled the theatre as Beauty and the prince celebrated their love and the cast took a bow. The applause was overwhelming for the beast, but the loudest applause went to the incredibly talented Northern Ballet Sinfonia. The orchestra had been offering out leaflets outside of the Theatre Royal when we arrived and it was announced at the start of the show that members would be wearing protest T-shirts while playing the live music. This peaceful protest is against proposed cuts to live music on tour for some Northern Ballet productions from April 2024 due to rising costs. Live music plays a huge part in the creation of such shows as Beauty & The Beast, and it would be a real shame to see a Northern Ballet show without it.