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Beauty and the Beast review at Theatre Royal, Nottingham – ‘doesn’t hang together’

Naomi Slights and Ben Richards in Beauty and the Beast at Nottingham Theatre Royal. Photo: Whitefoot Photography Naomi Slights and Ben Richards in Beauty and the Beast at Nottingham Theatre Royal. Photo: Whitefoot Photography

All the special effects in the world don’t compensate for a thin story, and there’s little more than a nod here to the classic tale of Beauty and the Beast. It’s a very slender thread holding together a show that is, in essence, a vehicle for the pairing of Andrew Ryan as the brazen Dame Betty Blumenthal and Ben Nickless – a returning Nottingham favourite – as her hapless son, Benny.

They’re a multi-talented duo (Ryan also directs) and there are some outrageous and well-timed comic sequences. But it’s all suggestive, nudge-and-a-wink stuff that relies almost wholly on sexual innuendo and a weary succession of toilet gags.

There are monsters a-plenty – some brilliantly scary 3D creatures, and an ugly Kraken that rears right out into the auditorium – and an evil enchantress in Natalie Spriggs’ full-throttle Deadly Nightshade.

But aside from Ben Richards’ clear and anguished Beast, there’s little if any rounding of the characters. Sherrie Hewson (who hails from Nottingham herself) does a sterling job of engaging with the audience as Mrs Potts-Temple-Savage, and Naomi Slights makes the best of an under-written Belle. The show’s got glitz, pyrotechnics and some exuberant dancing from the Ensemble, but it just doesn’t hang together.

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High on spectacle but lacking story and cohesion