Beauty and the Beast by Unity College

A heart-warming tale on a cold winter’s night.

The audience left the Auditorium glowing after watching Unity College’s Beauty and the Beast JR. in early December. The ‘tale as old as time’ was actually written in the early eighteenth century by Madame Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve (1695 – 1755) and was first published in 1740 in The Young American and Marine Tales. It was this story which Disney producers released as an animated classic in 1991 with songs by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman. This was further adapted for the stage with new songs by Alan Menken and Tim Rice.

The classic story tells of Belle, a young woman in a provincial town, and the Beast, who is really a young prince trapped under the spell of an enchantress. Brought together with a stunning set and colourful costumes, Unity College students impressed audiences with their talent and ability as they sang and danced through such toe-tapping tunes as: ‘Be Our Guest’, ‘Something There’, ‘Belle’ and ‘Gaston’.

Taking the role of Belle, Emily Hughes gave a performance beyond her years. Putting her own interpretation on the bookish dreamer, her facial expressions allowed her to play some lovely amusing moments. However, Emily gave some genuinely heart wrenching moments too, her solo ‘Home’ was a particular highlight and I’m sure there was more than one person in the audience who had to dab their eyes as the show reached its dramatic climax. Jack Uttley played the Prince who was turned into the Beast. Having to manage wearing a huge Beast head, with limited vision, Jack skilfully navigated his way around the stage portraying the tortured soul. With a swaggering bravado, Adam Brieley was the self-centred Gaston and Amy Clough was his comic sidekick Lafou, who seemed to enjoy every minute on the stage. Following Gaston everywhere were the three Silly Girls, who seemed to steal the show whenever they were seen. Great credit must be given to Maisie Metcalf, Macy Williams and Tegan Williams who not only worked so well together as a team, but had individual characters too. Belle’s inventor mother, Marie, was strongly played with passion throughout and it was clearly delivered by Lydia Cryer.

In the Beast’s Castle, we met Annie Dobney as Mrs Cogsworth, who gave a charming portrayal of the reserved housekeeper, with a passion for giving guided tours. Mademoiselle Lumiere was flamboyantly played by Molly Sturgeon and her ‘Be Our Guest’ song got better and better at every performance. The fine voice of Chloe Bennett was well suited to the role of Mrs Potts and her rendition of the title song was full of charm and warmth. Her daughter, Chip, (Daisy Hodder) drew a laugh from the audience when she asked if, after turning human again, she still had to sleep in a cupboard.

Ruby Hawkes, Megan Langley, Ariane Limmer and Abby Miller were the four narrators and set the scene perfectly, managing to manifest themselves into wolves and terrify Marie and Belle in the forest. The rest of the ensemble played an assortment of villagers and then transformed into the menacing mob which attacked the castle.

With great sound, operated by former Unity Student Gemma Collins, atmospheric lighting and the ingenious use of set and back projection, as the snow fell outside, Unity College’s Beauty and the Beast JR. certainly thawed the audience’s heart.