Review: Beauty & The Beast at The Exchange 1856

Review: Beauty & The Beast at The Exchange 1856

Beauty and the Beast – Tuesday 28th May 

*we were provided press tickets to attend.

Astravaganza Entertainment provided a wonderful night of entertainment where they invited us to relive a Tale as Old as Time with their beautiful version of Beauty and the Beast. This wonderful company are donating all of the proceeds of their raffle and collection buckets to Maggie’s Cancer Care which is a truly terrific cause. 

Our evening took place in a slightly different venue for this company, who usually grace the stage of the Tyne Theatre, at The Exchange 1856 in North Shields. It is such a modern, stunning venue and hosts a decent sized stage and all of the sparkly new equipment needed to put on a great stage show. It was lovely to see such a mixed audience and the little princesses wearing their finest costumes ready for the evening ahead. 

It was my first time seeing one of Astravaganza’s shows so I didn’t know what to expect and I was impressed by the levels of professionalism on stage. It was a decent sized cast with an adult and child chorus which is always lovely to see. The children were totally adorable and performed their choreography with ease – which isn’t an easy feat- you can see how much hard work had gone into this. 

The staging was very different from shows I’ve seen in the past with most of the scenery being projected very cleverly onto a digital screen. They did have limited space on stage but this never deterred from the performance and the quality of the on screen graphics was incredibly detailed. There were some pieces of scenery such as Belle’s Fathers home and the dining table which were moved efficiently on stage by the cast and crew and this never deterred from the show. Great scene changes which never slowed down the performance. 

I loved how during the build up and the interval they blasted out Disney songs which really set the tone for the evening. We were quickly introduced to Belle with the first singing number ‘Belle’. Such a brilliantly wonderful song which the chorus are heavily involved in. Such a great number however, I do believe in the beginning the mics were a little quiet which was a real shame as I felt as though I missed some singing parts. This seemed to level itself out as the show progressed alongside some of the background sounds which were simply too loud. The sound team quickly got to work and rectified these problems. 

Amelia Cavagan played Belle and she slotted into the role effortlessly looking and sounding every inch the princess that she portrayed. I loved her sassy, quick witted attitude on stage and she really did Belle justice who isn’t the stereotypical princess. Her voice was crystal clear and so sweet, suiting her songs perfectly. I particularly enjoyed her rendition of Home. A real star upon that stage. She wasn’t, however, the only strong principal of the evening. I was wowed by the talent of the principal men on stage last night. 

Lewis Wilkinson bounded onto the stage with unfathomable energy to portray his role of the arrogant, egotistical Gaston. I loved the way he made this character its own giving that arrogant edge but also still being funny and likeable. His voice was simply exceptional and one of the best amateur voices I have heard in a very long time, you could put him in any West End show and he would shine. His voice was rich in texture and he was able to sing every note with ease. I felt relaxed watching him knowing I was in capable hands. His song Me with Belle was brilliant alongside Gaston where La Fou his sidekick, played by Corey Clarke, shined with his lovely vocals and comedy acting too. 

Belle’s Father, Maurice, was played by Gary McGrogan and they really had such a wonderful relationship on stage. Their song No Matter What always makes me well up and it was done beautifully. I particularly enjoyed the simple choreography here. Clearly a very strong vision by Director, David Ducasse, who led this show to victory carefully considering stage direction and position throughout. The lines were delivered very well and it was every inch the Disney tale we know and love. 

Finally, Maurice reached the castle where we were introduced to our wonderful castle cast. The costuming of the characters in the castle was just exquisite provided by Utopia Costumes. I particularly loved Cogsworth’s working clock and the adorable Chip on his trolley. Cogsworth, played by Andrew Walker Lane and Lumiere, played by Markus Sayers- Franklin were the most perfect double act on stage. Brilliantly funny and they bounced perfectly off one another never trying to outdo each other but working so in sync. They provided such great comedy and kindness within their roles and Lumiere’s French accent was impressive, never slipping once! They did such a wonderful job with Be Our Guest and this was a real show stopper of a number. This must have been such a huge number to choreograph but Bekka Whaley as choreographer did such a great job – I particularly loved the Can Can section. 

Danny Emerson Ducasse played the wonderful Beast and had the most stunning voice. Another performer you could just pluck from the West End. He really gave such a gentle side to our Beast last night and managed to provide the right balance of anger and emotion within his performance. His rendition of If I Can’t Love Her was just a truly special way to end Act One. He was such a handsome prince in the end too! Who knew that handsome face was hidden under that Beast wig?! The transitions from Prince to Beast were cleverly thought out with the blackouts and pyrotechnics. 

The use of lighting throughout was incredibly clever so bravo to Adam Roff. I loved the use of the Yellow lighting during the iconic self titled song Beauty and the Beast which was performed perfectly by Mrs Potts, Deborah Taylor- Smith. I adored her as Mrs Potts, she was just so likable and beautiful upon stage. Of course she was accompanied by her very own Chip, who was played by Leo Humphries last night. He was truly adorable and did a stellar job with his acting and singing. 

Such a beautiful show with a true fairytale feel. You can see how much hard work and dedication has gone into putting on a truly magic performance. A great evening with exceptional talent on stage.

Review by Robyn McGough

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