Beauty and the Beast - 6 July 2002, Birmingham

A touring version of a show can at times mean a lesser show and small cuts here and there to make it easier to move but thankfully in the case of the current tour of Beauty and the Beast any such alterations have not affected the look and feel of the show.

BATB is a wonderful up lifting show, whose music, story and vibrancy can not fail to please everyone. The costumes and settings have a slight animated look, as you would expect, but the images of the scenes are perfectly complimented by the performers and lighting to capture the spirit of each scene. The main change with regard to the set is the castle scene as now instead of the castle set coming form the back of the stage as one whole piece it is represented but huge columns and lighting which gives it that spooky and shadowy feel which perfectly captures the foreboding mood of the castle. Belleís room and the Beastís room are on set pieces which come on from either side and there is a staircase which is used for the library. The back drops for the castle entrance and library are very effective with the perspective on both creating the sense of a vast castle.

The cast was uniformly excellent with Annalene Beechey as a charming / delightful Belle with a strong character, beautiful clear voice and an expressionate face so you always knew exactly how Belle was feeling or thinking. Alistair Robinsís Beast has many sides to his character and the swinging from the bully to the lonely despondent beast was achieved excellently. From the singing of the final moments of the show it seems that the beast costume is restricting the power in his voice at times as the power he displayed earlier was not as apparent during Ďif I canít love herí A nice touch at the end of this song was that as the curtain fell he fell to his knees in despair as opposed to standing in a final posing position. They was a believable rapport between Annalene and Alistair and the relationship between them was nicely developed throughout the show.

There was excellent support from the objects of the house - Lumiere, Cogsworth and Mrs Potts (Stephen Matthews, Gary Huddlestone and Marilyn Cutts) and Marilyn, who again has a fab voice, sang the charming title song.

Ben Harlow was the suitable brutish Gaston although his singing voice was not always able to retain the deepness of voice for Gaston. And Anthony Clegg his bafoonish sidekick.

All in all a worthy successor to the original London production with a high calibre of bother cast and production . There should always be room for a show like this which leaves the audience with such a good feeling as all comes together for a happy ending.

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