Playful, bold and grand; Beauty & the Beast impressed on opening night at His Majesty’s Theatre. A classic French fairy tale of love and sacrifice, a handsome but vain Prince (Christian Luck) is transformed into an ugly Beast (Matthew Lehmann) by a malicious fairy (Jayne Smeulders), and can only be set free by true love. Performed by none other than the West Australian Ballet and accompanied by the West Australian Symphony Orchestra, it is hard not to feel swept off your feet by the enchantment of the night.
Mirrors, reflective lights and costumes become a symbol of identity, as they mirror an ugly and frighteningly vain society obsessed with self-worth and social class. But there is compassion and wonder to be found, as the naïve but kindhearted Beauty (Brooke Widdison-Jacobs) shines through, enjoying the simple things and selflessly looking after others. The selfish sisters that kick up an elegant fuss when things don’t go their way and the zombie-like goblins that traipse around the Beast’s castle provide some light humour to the earnest fairytale.
Brooke Widdison-Jacobs’ experience is evident as she effortlessly performs perfect ponche after ponche, measured lifts and nimble jetés with exquisite technique. The Beast contrasts these delicate movements with a more contemporary approach, performing rolls, jumps and kicks with flexed feet and staying low to the ground to give him an animalistic demeanour. There were perhaps a few too many solos for the Beast, as the creature-like motifs became a bit repetitive and tired. One solo in particular was marred by the coloured disco lights flooding the stage; they were tacky and out of place.
International costume designer Julie Anderson gave the work a playful edge, steering clear of the expected and somewhat traditional white tutus. Instead, she gave each character their own majestic element. The most mesmerising of these was worn by the second fairy of the three, La Fee Luminaire (Florence Leroux-Coleno) – a metallic dress with pieces that draped from her arms like wings. When these bounced the low lighting off her body, she appeared like a shining angel.
The canons and duets between dancers were beautiful, and the occasional fumbled lift or unsynchronised movement can be excused by opening night nerves slipping through the cracks of a well-rounded performance. It wouldn’t be a spoiler to reveal that, like all good fairy tales, the Beauty and Beast live happily ever after. The final scene was particularly spectacular, as the silver pipes that made up the palace setting, the dancers dressed in gold dresses and the warm lighting fused to finish the show on a grand note. The performance gives the audience what they might expect from a well-known classic; the nostalgia of a childhood favourite and the thrill of a night out at the ballet.
Review by Melissa Scott
‘Beauty & the Beast’ runs 13-28 May at His Majesty’s Theatre, Perth. Tickets available here.