REVIEW: Beauty and the Beast, Burdekin Singers

Olivia Licciardello as Belle in the Burdekin Singers 'Beauty and the Beast'
Olivia Licciardello as Belle in the Burdekin Singers 'Beauty and the Beast' IMAGE: Kris Favale

It’s a tale as old as time: Girl meets Beast, Beast takes Girl captive; Girl escapes; Girl gets attacked by wolves; Beast saves Girl; Girl and Beast fall in love; Angry Hoarde lead by Beautiful Idiot attacks Beast’s castle; Staff-turned-Décor mount defence; a magical kiss; Girl and Beast live happily ever after.

(OK – maybe it doesn’t all resonate on a personal level, but it’s a classic nonetheless!)

The Burdekin Singers and Theatre Company have put together a wonderful production of Disney’s beloved Beauty and the Beast, which opened last weekend and continues this Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

The show is a brightly coloured visual feast that makes use of the deep pool of talent available in the Burdekin while serving up all of your favourite tunes from the Disney animation, as well as quite a few written specifically for the stage.

The cast of Beauty and the Beast IMAGE: Kris Favale

Olivia Licciardello shares the role of Belle with her sister Amaia and gave a terrific Opening Night performance. This is Olivia’s first lead role with the Burdekin Singers and she shows great promise. Olivia held her own in a hugely demanding role and was able to contrast moments of tender kindness with headstrong independence, very successfully bringing to life the qualities that have made this Disney princess such an enduring favourite.

Ashley Wood was sensational as the Beast and overcame heavy make-up and costuming (very well put together by the Production Team) to ensure his character connected with Belle and with the audience. Starting as an ominous figure in the shadows, being exposed as a snarling tower of fur standing menacingly over Maurice (played by Bradley McAllister) and ultimately winning the hearts of Belle and the audience – as evidenced by the vocal young girl behind me who loudly defended the Beast as ‘kind and gentle’ – Ashley truly did transform before our very eyes. He also gave a terrific vocal performance, with ‘If I Can’t Love Her’ closing Act One, a real highlight.

Lawrence Polga and Mitchell Pearce make a side-splitting duo as the devilish Gaston and his willing sidekick Lefou. Physically, Lawrence was the perfect casting choice for Gaston – tall, broad and strapping – and he’s nailed the mannerisms and arrogant line-delivery to really drive the characterisation home. Similarly, Mitchell was incredibly entertaining as Lefou – I really enjoyed the choices he made as an actor and his onstage antics are sure to surprise and delight audiences.

Lawrence Polga as Gaston and Mitchell Pearce as Lefou in Beauty and the Beast IMAGE: Kris Favale

Another dynamic duo comes in the form of the tightly wound Gogsworth (Tom Pickersgill) and the amorous Lumiere (David Lequerica). Tom and David play off one another really well with a fast-paced partnership and there wasn’t a moment that they were onstage that didn’t have the audience enthralled. David also delivered a fantastic (and 12-minute long!) rendition of crowd favourite ‘Be Our Guest’ and his seductive French accent was faultless.

As Lumiere’s love interest Babette, the French maid-turned-feather duster, Jasmin Delle Baite was both sweet and spicy. Jasmin has a captivating stage presence and her chemistry with David amplified this. Watching Lumiere and Babette chase each other around in a chorus of flirtatious giggles was simply charming.

Rounding out the loveable household objects was Nyree Woods and Hunters Oats as the teapot Mrs Potts and her son, Chip (Hunter shares his role with Ayden Barnett); and Jessica Meisenhelter as the Opera Star-turned-wardrobe Madame De La Grande Bouche. Hunter brought brilliant energy and enthusiasm to his role as this iconic teacup and showed great flair for comedic timing. Nyree and Jessica made the perfect pair of gal-pals to Belle as she struggled to adapt to life in the castle and their voices complimented each other beautifully in their duets. Jessica’s operatic chops were especially impressive.

The lead cast was backed by a terrific group of supporting characters and ensemble, who brought a wide array of talent to the show and it was really nice to see people of all ages a skills given the chance to shine in their own unique ways. From the talented wolf pack, to the fierce and funny young cutlery, and plenty of acrobatics, there was lots to love about this show.

I did note that the tempo of each song from the film seemed to have been slowed down slightly, which unfortunately sapped some energy from the bigger ensemble numbers and seemed to have knock-on effect for the overall pacing (although pacing is often improved over any show’s season). A few bored faces among some chorus members also brought the overall energy down, though luckily there is so much to look at I doubt too many people would notice.

My only other criticism is that for some actors, our lovely North Queensland drawl would creep back in from time to time. A bit more attention to achieving consistency in accents would help to further immerse the world being created. And it really is a magnificent world.

The Burdekin Singers and Theatre Company’s Beauty and the Beast runs until 16 February 2020. IMAGE: Kris Favale

The sets, designed by David Guy and Pat Nuttall, were terrifically well done and put to great use by the cast; Rachel Webber’s props – particularly Maurice’s invention – looked sensational and the costumes, designed by Pat Nauttal and coordinated by Nelly Nosworthy and Treena List were truly jaw-dropping. The attention to detail in these costumes was amazing and I loved that they were all tied together through the strategic use of the same fabrics for certain groups. Not to mention the tassle-budget must have been huge!! The lighting design by Jamie Schmidt was – as always the case with Jamie – outstanding; and the Beast’s transformation back into a man was really cleverely done. I won’t spoil the surprise, but it took my brain a little while to work out exactly what I was seeing as the transformation took place.

I really enjoyed the choreography  by Julie Nosworthy, Stephanie Ryder and Gianta Pegoraro; it was fresh and interesting, and managed to steer clear of too many clichés. The Orchestra didn’t miss a beat, and they stirred a wonderful sense of nostalgia from the opening notes of the overture until the very end.

Director Pat Nuttall and her team should be thrilled with this production. It’s a fun and fantastical foray through an absolute classic and theatre-goers of all ages are sure to love it.

The Burdekin Singers and Theatre Company’s production of Beauty and the Beast runs at the Burdekin Theatre until 16 February 2020.

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