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Wednesday, December 5, 2012


(Sascha Halbhuber as the Beast and Georgina Mabbett as Belle. Pic by Val Adamson)

Director Steven Stead’s comment in his programme notes acknowledges that their production of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast has been KickstArt’s greatest challenge to date. It is the biggest show they have ever mounted and it has kept them hard at work for most of the year.

The professional quality of this production coupled with the fact that on Monday night’s The Mercury Durban Theatre Awards, KickstArt’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs walked off with all the awards in the Children’s Theatre Section, among others - with Don’t Dress for Dinner and Red also being honoured - is a clear indication of the capacity of this production company which has a bright future ahead of it on a national scale.

Confirmation of this is the success of Cabaret which went on to tour Johannesburg and Cape Town. Another stamp of professionalism and forward thinking is the advertisement in the Beauty and the Beast programme of their 2013 festive season production (Jack and the Beanstalk). With Beauty and the Beast, Steve Stead and Greg King, who make up Kickstart, have triumphantly confirmed that they are a force to be reckoned with and now stand alongside the major theatre companies in South Africa

What can one say about Beauty and the Beast, other than … wow! What a slick, top class production well-supported by efficient technology and excellent design.

With music by Alan Menken and lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice, this musical is perfect entertainment for the whole family.

It’s a heartwarming tale of an independent-thinking bookish young woman whose father is taken prisoner by a reclusive Beast, who is actually a human prince under a spell. To save her father, she offers herself to the Beast in his place. As a rose slowly drops its petals, indicating the time that is left before the spell can be overturned, their relationship gradually develops as they warm to each other.

All credit to Sascha Halbhuber for getting the essence of the man through the mask of the beast and Georgina Mabbett as Belle for her luminous and utterly sincere performance. Both have beautiful voices and their solos were pure pleasure. They have some heartwarming scenes together.

Greg King’s designs were superb. The sets – which required some highly efficient manoeuvring – were spectacular. The costumes – especially Belle’s final outfit – were a masterpiece. It’s a challenge to act when you don’t have control of all your body movements or disguised as a clock (Darren King); teapot (Charon Williams Ros); candelabra (Bryan Hiles); feather duster (Liesl Coppin), wardrobe (Ayanda Sibisi) … or even a teacup (Joshua Milne), but each performer created a credible individual behind the object.

Further fine performances come from Peter Court as Belle’s eccentric father as well as Lyle Buxton as the egocentric Gaston and Rory Booth as his long-suffering sidekick Lefou. The rest of the cast – including the three delightful ditsy dames – took on a number of roles and were involved in the dancing, all adding to the highly professional nature of the production.

It’s not easy creating choreography for clocks, teapots et al but Janine Bennewith came up trumps. Shelley MacLean and Justin Southey’s musical direction was spot on and Tina le Roux’s lighting design was, as always, faultless.

Nic Sakellerides (Musical Director: Orchestral) has created a rich sweeping and multi-layered orchestral score which does full justice to the massive scale of this production. Good to hear former Durban actress Brenda Radloff’s voice in the opening narration.

The low-key volume of sound in the bar deck area after the show for the first 20 minutes or so was proof that audience members were still stunned by the theatre magic they had experienced. However, it didn’t take long before the energy returned and discussions on the show reached peak pitch!

Beauty and the Beast will run until January 6 at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre, with performances Tuesdays to Thursdays as well as Saturdays and Sundays at 14h30, Fridays and Saturdays at 19h00. Tickets range from R100 to R200. Book at Computicket.

For block bookings of ten or more, contact Ailsa Windsor of Going Places on 083 250 2690 or email:

Definitely don’t miss this one – it’s a blazing triumph for KickstArt! – Caroline Smart