Phil Hopkins, Group Travel Editor & Theatre Correspondent

All Change For The Ballet Beast!

photo - Emma Kauldhar
photo - Emma Kauldhar
Time is a barometer on life in the same way that true versatility is the ultimate arbiter of talent.

So, four years on from when I first watched Northern Ballet's Beauty & The Beast, it was great to see so many familiar faces but, this time, in different roles and at a different theatre; Leeds Grand.

Hironao Takahashi, originally the Beast in 2012, but this time the hairy one's manservant, Alfred, must have watched on in envy as his usurper, Ashley Dixon, danced one of the best male roles on the ballet stage, Caliban on steroids you might argue! Hironao meanwhile, had to keep his testosterone under control as the understated lackey. But his strength was in his controlled demeanour.

photo - Emma Kauldhar
photo - Emma Kauldhar
And what a dynamic, aggressive performance by Monsieur Dixon. I loved the gradual transformation from rough, animalistic beast into the purring, playful pet that falls in love with Beauty and vice versa.

This time, too, it was Hannah Bateman's turn to play the good fairy - she was one of Beauty's sisters four years ago - and I again fell in love with her wispy, ethereal costume, whipped up surely from a surplus of Bacofoil?

Dreda Blow was wonderful as Beauty - a promotion from her 2012 'good' witch for exceptional behaviour whilst on stage? - and I remain convinced that this demure beanpole, with the strength of 10, has been drinking protein shakes for the last 12 months in preparation for this demanding, never-off-stage role; pure muscle!

In many ways Beauty & The Beast is a simple tale. Arrogant prince gets turned into a hairy thing when he ignores a disguised, evil fairy's attempts to gain succour. He finds himself in a magical castle, we know not where (Gipton maybe?), subsequently a Princess (rarely ugly) finds herself in his confines. They fall in love, after a lot of grotesque table manners, he is transformed back into himself and they live happily ever after.

photo - Emma Kauldhar
photo - Emma Kauldhar
Spurious maybe but, what a vehicle for a colourful, dynamic ballet. Loved it!

Conductor John Pryce Jones was at his best in the pit and full marks, once again, to set designer Duncan Hayler, lighting designer Tim Mitchell and, of course, David Nixon, choreographer and costume designer.

The 'performance' is always the finished product, but never forget that there is a lot of inspiration and perspiration that must flow before show night.

This is a 'Company' production where the combined talents of many produce a far stronger result than if they were to work independently. Another great Northern Ballet contribution; more conventional than '1984' but certain to boost the box office receipts in the run up to Christmas.

Until 2 January 2017. 7pm & 2pm performances
Leeds Grand Theatre