Jennifer Christie reviews Fat Rascal Theatre Company’s Beauty and the Beast – a musical parody now playing at the King’s Head Theatre.
Beauty and the Beast: A Musical Parody
King’s Head Theatre
2 November 2018
Fat Rascals Theatre currently present Beauty and the Beast: A Musical Parody at The Kings Head Tavern for the second year running. It’s part of a UK tour and after the London Season closes on the 17th November the tour will continue until Christmas.
Beauty and the Beast: A Musical Parody is a wonderful romp through a Disneyesque landscape with some hilarious twists in the well-known tale. The Fat Rascals had been worried by all the weak female protagonists found in children’s theatre. They saw the latest blockbusting version of the old tale and said:
‘After watching yet another fable of a woman learning to overlook a man’s hideousness and love the soul within, we decided to flip the whole thing on its head. We’re exploring gender roles…and we’re creating a brand new musical.’
So the classic tale has been turned on its head and Belle becomes Beau, the Beast was once a Princess and so it goes throughout. It works exceedingly well even if Beau has more of his feminine side showing than your average country lad. Much of the original storyline remains intact and there is enough snappy and vulgar one-liners to get the audience cackling with joy.
Credited with the book and lyrics for this version are Robyn Grant and Daniel Elliot with music by James Ringer-Beck with the rider that the piece was devised by the company. Rehearsals must have been a riot of fun. There are many echoes of the original in both book and music and the story follows the path with one notable exception: a seemingly mad village woman who rants about a shortage of eggs. It’s not until the closing scenes that her raison d’etre is revealed. It’s worth waiting for.
As equally clever as the script is the music provided by Ringer-Beck with additional music by Nicola Chang. At times the original score appears to be there but the ear is tricked with changes that are significant and delightful. For instance, ‘Have a Brunch’ replaces the original number with the dancing forks and has very witty lyrics. Similarly the song here entitled ‘Beauty and the Beast’ is sung by Mr Spout (Aaron Dart) is a joy.
However amongst all of these positives is a problem I had with sound, owed mainly to where I was sat…beneath the only speaker that seemed to be in use. The backing tracks continually overcame the voices both singing and speaking and much of the minutiae of the first act was lost. It’s no fun listening to the rest of the audience laugh when you’ve missed it. I moved seats in the interval and the balance was better.
The performances were amazing. All the cast doubled roles and more. Allie Munro is a stand out, taking three named characters and a plethora of ensemble roles. There is one memorable scene when she changes on stage from the Beast’s mother, Maureen to La Fou Fou, the wingman for Siobhan (the would-be suitor of Beau) Munro is very clever and hugely entertaining. Katie Woods struts the stage as Siobhan in a strong characterization and her best work of the night.
James Mawson is Beau and very loveable. Robyn Grant is the Beast. Grant looks splendid in a costume designed by Hugh Purves who combines his costuming talents with his work as a puppet designer to great effect. Grant and Mawson have some lovely moments together including the love duet ‘Thorns’. Their relationship is clearly defined. The dramatic moment of the night though belongs to Grant in the scene where she thinks Beau has left her. Her reprise of ‘Thorns’ and the reaction to the betrayal is genuine and moving.
Beauty and the Beast: A Musical Parody has evolved to a higher plane with this adaptation. It’s a delight of innovation and execution.