Joyous and magical - Beauty and the Beast at Scarborough's Stephen Joseph Theatre
His bonkers take on a familiar fairytale or classic story has become as much a Scarborough tradition as Boyes window festive display – and we would not swap him for all the ice cream in the Harbour Bar.
After Jack in the Beanstalk, Cinderella and Treasure Island, Nick tackles Beauty and the Beast – the story of a young woman who falls in love with a handsomely-challenged man to the tune of Be Our Guest.
Forget Disney, forget linear storytelling, forget following proceedings – just hang on tight cos here we go faster and faster through a tale – brimming with visual and verbal gags, bursting with audience participation and topped with Christmas hits and rock anthems – that makes absolutely no sense.
The production would not be complete without a Simon Slater original score and songs which, this year, capture the monstrous theme perfectly.
For the record, the plot: Welcome to Scarbolopolis, a magical town by the sea in need of Christmas spirit. Enter a brave girl, her dad and Nan, arriving in town ready to open a shop selling baubles, tinsel and all things lovely to brighten things up.
One day Dad goes wandering into Everdark Forest where the mysterious beast lives and does not come back. Our heroine ventures into the woods on a mission – to rescue her dad, the beast and the town from the evil clutches of Maloria.
Actually, to say much more would ruin this joyous, gleeful, exuberant, sparkly, musical Christmas cracker. To detail what and who audiences encounter on Rosabelle’s journey would be like telling them whether Tiny Tim in A Christmas Carol lives to fight another year.
Listen and watch out for references to much-loved Scarborough institutions and revel in the glorious madness of it all.
A cast of five lead the audience through the merry mayhem. Kiara Nicole Pillai is fabulous as the feisty, fun-loving, free-spirited Rosabelle.
Amy Drake, complete with Boyes carrier bags, is her equally defiant and hilarious – Nan and Charlie Ryan is her lovely, loving dad.
Stealing the show is Annie Kirkman as Maloria – the most dastardly dame since Maleficient. With a cackle and a swish of her black coat, she grabs the audience’s attention and has them hissing and booing like revellers at miserly Scrooge. They and she bask in the badness.
The transformation of the piece belongs to Oliver Mawdsley. He is meek and mild as Maloria’s henchman Baümtruser – pronounced Bum Trouser (that’s about as rude as the show gets) – and roars as the Beast.
The costumes are glorious, the lighting ‘aw’ inspiring and the actors roam around the whole auditorium and more. Director Paul Robinson and writer Nick Lane have worked together on multiple occasions – and that is obvious in the resulting controlled chaos.
This is is a show with a heart bigger than Christmas. Without hitting the audience over the head with the force of Santa’s sack, it shines a big light on family and friendship and how both come in all shapes and sizes and how kindness can overcome meanness.