Review: Beauty and the Beast ****

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Grand Theatre, Leeds

The Beauty and the Beast story has been around since 1740, and the tale of the arrogant, narcissitic prince punished by being turned into a beast has been reinterpreted in many different ways for every era since.

David Nixon, artistic director of Northern Ballet, has come up with choreography here that tells the story beautifully and stretches the cast’s dancing and acting abilities. The styling is sumptuous, with mirrors, reptile skin, featherlight chiffons and shimmering, flowing metallic fabrics making the whole look lavishly tactile and glamorous.

Martha Leebolt is stunning as Beauty, the young girl sacrficed to live with the Beast so that he may be saved from the spell. Always a mesmerising dancer, she brings a quiet simplicity to this role that is in contrast to Ashley Dixon’s writhing, tortured and yearning Beast. Together they are totally compelling, and a highlight is a dream sequence in which Beauty and the Prince perform a love dance while the Beast watches in agony.

Duncan Hayler has come up with a set that’s full of suprises, including a giant rose hammock and pillars that sprout flowers.The music is a patchwork of Saint-Saens, Debussy, Bizet, Poulenc and Glazunov. Northern Ballet have suffered a 25 per cent cut in their funding, but there’s no apparent paring back of their usual high standards here. However, it’s sad to think that the collection buckets being rattled as we exited the theatre are now being relied on to help keep these magnificent dancers in jobs.

To December 31