By Ryan McClenahan
The Miranda Music Society has brought to life a tale as old as time in their production of Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast”. Before attending the production I wasn’t sure what to expect; “Beauty and the Beast” was a movie I had nightmares about as a child, and so I had never seen a live production since that time, though I knew that it was a technical spectacle on stage. I was not sure what to expect from a community theatre production of this Disney classic, but what I found was a production of great scale, and the emotional depth with which scenes were performed evoked a rush of cheerful nostalgia within me.
The orchestra, conducted by musical director Andy Peterson, set the stage with a commanding overture, and ensured that many enchanting melodies that I had long forgotten would be revived as the night went on.
What stood out most vividly in this production, however, was the talent of the performers. Straight away, Natasha Hoeberigs as Belle was captivating. Her performances in songs such as “A Change in Me” showed a great mix of technical singing ability and acting skills; a great talent to watch.
Lachlan O’brien’s portrayal of “Gaston” was spot on. His characterisation and smooth slap-stick comedy routines with Leigh Scott as Gaston’s servant Lefou proved to be quite entertaining as the characters popped in and out of the production. I felt as though the Gaston I faintly remember from years ago had been resurrected from the depths of my childhood.
The comedic side to the production continued with the relationship between Lumiere, played by Tim Wotherspoon, and Cogsworth, played by Jonathon Acosta. The pair exchanged witty dialogue with one another with precise timing and provided many humorous moments as the two paraded about the castle, often quarrelling.
Unfortunately I found that The Beast, played by Andrew Symes, was hard to understand at times under his dense costume, which made parts of the production difficult to follow. But having said that, his performance of “If I Can’t Love Her” was captivating, and by holding the last note of the song in his deep and powerful voice as the orchestra brought the piece to a crescendo, he left the crowd cheering for more.
Stand out songs of the night were “Be Our Guest” and “Beauty and the Beast”. “Be Our Guest” had impressive choreography, created by Nikki Bunch Bozonie and Emma Paull, which ranged from line dancing to acrobatics. Just as I thought the song couldn’t get more epic, people would start flipping across the stage while others were thrown on to people’s shoulders and spun around. It may just be my soft spot for this song, but “Beauty and the Beast” was a showstopper. The smooth transition from quiet violin notes into mesmerising piano which then flowed in to an evolving chorus of horns was a great section of music to hear live. Margaret Short, who played “Mrs. Potts”, complimented the majestic nature of the piece with her vocal performance.
The costumes and props had great attention to detail, and didn’t leave much room for a professional production to offer more, no matter how many more technical bells and whistles might be implemented.
This community production of Beauty and the Beast has so much to offer, that long-time fans of the original and those new to the story will all have plenty to keep them fixated on this highly entertaining production.