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Birmingham Royal Ballet: Beauty and the Beast, 2019

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Very much enjoyed the performance last night at Birmingham Hippodrome. There was a pretty good audience for a Wednesday evening, helped by a large attendance of many Elmhurst students from ‘down the road ‘.  I haven’t seen this ballet since it’s first showing back in 2003 when it didn’t particularly strike me as a keeper. David Bintley has apparently made quite a few changes since then and it certainly kept  me interested with no redundant moments and an uncluttered narrative. It is actually a fairly short piece of just two acts approx 45 mins each. A clear strength to me is the character of the Beast, wonderfully danced last night by Brandon Lawrence. It is to Bintley’s credit that his choreography conveys the emotional anguish and frustration of the creature given the costume ( including face mask). This is a role that makes large demands of its male dancer, with its athletic solos and graceful, attentive partnering of Belle in the pas de deux set pieces. I find Brandon Lawrence a very impressive, expansive dancer, who should soon be joining the ranks of principals. Yvette Knight also gave a strong performance as  Belle, conveying a charming, innocence. There is  less capacity in this role for individual  interpretation, but Knight’s dancing was clean and assured . Lachlan Monaghan also  impressed me in the role of raven with his fast, light dancing in his solos. Bintley’s choreography again cleverly capturing  the avian features here , and in the other animal creatures that populate this ballet. The comic moments are clear winners in this ballet with the behaviour of the wedding guests and the memorable grandma . Another clear strength is the wonderful, sumptuous designs from Philip Prowse, truly a gothic house for the beast . However I found the lighting much too dark in places,  to the detriment of some dances for the corp de ballet. Yet I must note the final scene is beautifully lit with the sunlight streaming through following the beast’s transformation into a prince. An original score from Glen Buhr lacks any memorable motifs but there is interesting orchestration for the percussion which is cleverly interpreted in the choreography.

The company are dancing wonderfully, and this ballet, in the final season of Bintley s tenure as director, reflects what he has achieved in Birmingham.

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Thanks for this warmly enthusiastic review Odyssey- I’m on my way to Birmingham to see it, and this has given me a taster of what to look out for. It’s been a long time since I saw BRB and I’m very excited!

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I do hope all posters who saw Beauty and the Beast really enjoyed it and appreciated the company's commitment.  I thought all the casts were well worth seeing, especially if the Beast was played by Tyrone Singleton or Brandon Lawrence.  I haven't seen it this time round but I have seen Tyrone more than once and was reminded of his powerful stage presence two weeks ago at Symphony Hall.


I say this because I have just seen the review by Rupert Christiansen in the Mail on Sunday which is both utterly patronising and condescending even by his standards.  He gives the work 3 stars, but then I am convinced that when reviewing BRB he automatically lops off a star for them not being the Royal Ballet. 


It is headed 'Carlos needs to tame this Beast' and it continues as follows - edited  highlights only as I don't want to risk being charged with copyright breaches.


'Good news for BRB, where it's recently been announced that the great Cuban dancer Carlos Acosta will be taking over in January as director.  But ................. (he) faces a daunting challenge: David Bintley has been in the job for a quarter of a century, and his people and way of doing things are deeply embedded.  .....a large loyal local audience, bags of team spirit in the ranks and a strong repertory of classic and story ballets. 


'But new blood and fresh thinking are desperately needed.  ...............Beauty and the Beast demonstrates BRB's strengths and weaknesses'.  It offers pleasant entertainment for family audiences - Bintley is a skilful craftsman and he can turn out eye-candy choreography by the yard - but there's no depth or originality, and sometimes one senses that it's being done by numbers.


'...........Momoko Hirata makes a pretty little doll of a Belle, and Cesar Morales dutifully jumps and spins as the Beast; Kit Holder and Rory Mackay prove comic cameos, and the corps keeps in line and time.   


'But ballet must aim higher than this if it's to gave a future.   So over to you, Carlos, and best of luck.'


Now, I admit that I am not great fan of the piece and Christiansen didn't see the strongest cast but does he have to be so demeaning of the company and Bintley's achievements over the past 25 years?   More to the point, has he attended any of the other programmes presented by the company?  Mind you, this is the man who years ago said  Tyrone's Tybalt lacked presence and menace!  I was at the same performance and, trust me, he didn’t.


The thing that got me most was the headline which said the company needs taming and then went on and on to say that, basically, they were all too passive. 


No doubt once Carlos arrives and the company starts to get serious investment  (no bad thing in either respect) our Rupert will be leading the pack of Metropolitan critics racing up the M40 to rave about absolutely everything, irrespective of its actual merit.


Sorry, just had to get that off my chest.


P.s.  reminds me of Clement Crisp who adored Sylvie Guillem when she danced with POB and then loathed her once she joined the Royal Ballet - in reverse obviously.

Edited by Two Pigeons
Spelling and p.s.
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  • 3 weeks later...

I had a wonderful few days at The Lowry enjoying BRB's Beauty and the Beast.


As a BRB Friend I was able to watch the rehearsal on Wednesday afternoon.  It was fascinating to watch the rehearsal with the dancers unencumbered by the costumes - it made me realise just how intricate the choreography is for the corps of birds and the ballroom scene as well as appreciating the pdd for Belle and the Beast even more.  The rehearsal was accompanied by piano.  I've always enjoyed this score but I absolutely loved it as just a piano piece.  Being able to watch a working rehearsal can certainly alter your perspective of a piece.


This latest revival of Beauty and the Beast has certainly been tightened up and the performances were all tremendous.  We were treated to five casts of Belle and Beast and they were all wonderful and all added a different dimension to the roles.  I love the nods within the choreography to Sleeping Beauty ... very cleverly woven in to the story.


First and last night honours were taken by a radiant Yvette Knight whose Beast was Brandon Lawrence.  They were achingly romantic together and very moving in the final duet.  We also saw Momoko Hirata/Cesar Morales, Karla Doorbar/Mathias Dingman, Delia Matthews/Tyrone Singleton and Maureya Lebowitz/Yasuo Atsuji.  All these partnerships were very well matched and all were definitely worth a special trip to see.


Tzu-Chao Chou was a human dynamo as the Raven and we also saw fine performances from Lachlan Monaghan and Aitor Galende.


The performances were all very well attended (making it even more galling that the company is not able to come to the Lowry in the Autumn to build the audience further) with the first night being sold out.


Thanks BRB for a wonderful series of performances.

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I'm in no way an expert Ballet reviewer but have to say we all enjoyed the Saturday matinee performance at The Lowry greatly. A really wonderful telling of a story we only really know through Disney. I'm still learning the intricacies of ballet performances but found the section where Belle was transported to the Beasts home wonderful and we laughed a lot at the ball with the funny old lady :) The final dance with Belle and her prince was outstanding.


We were also able to take in the class on stage on Saturday morning which my daughter found inspiring and today she took party in the ballet training for Grade 2-3 and thoroughly enjoyed it. The Lowry is a local theatre for us and I do love it, we sat in the rear upper circle and still had a fantastic view and no issues with sound, it seemed at least 3/4 full. I look forward to watching Swan Lake there next year:)

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Thank you all for your thoughts on BRB's Beauty and the Beast so far on this tour. I also saw a couple of performances at the Lowry, Salford; Thurs eve with Karla Doorbar and Mathias Dingman leading, and Sat Matinee with Maureya Lebowitz and Yasuo Atsuji leading.


As Janet has mentioned this production sold very well, in fact it feels to me it's probably the largest audiences I've ever seen for BRB at the Lowry. Normally I am used to having quite a large choice of seats even when  booking a week or days in advance. This time, only rear upper circle was available. But I'm not complaining, it's fantastic to see it so well attended.


So much to admire in this ballet, and two performances not enough to appreciate all the wonderful scenes. It captured the dark gothic charm of an age-old  children's tale, with a wonderful sense of the grotesque in the humourous scenes. I felt there were strong echoes of the styling and mood of Bintley's Cinderella. I had worried about the inescapable 'Disney' association - but, as the clips and promotion material indicate, it couldn't be further away in tone. The parts which stand out to me most are the enchanting castle scenes, the crow flight (to a Philip Glass-esuqe theme), the pure classical lines of Belle , the golden sunlit final pas de deux. 


I suppose I'd call it firmly 'neo-classical' , with narrative and lyricism at the forefront, rather than virtuosic technical showpieces, although the Beast and the Raven do demonstrate some spectacular dancing within ensemble or partnering scenes (some incredible fast sequences of turns and leaps as I remember). Thus, I feel it's true to say it's not a ballet that 'brings the house down', and on both of the performances I saw, a feature was the absence of the usual rounds of applause that I would expect after the big 'numbers' of a classical ballet, or even neoclassical ballets like Romeo and Juliet. And the hypnotic score, while lending much to the dreamlike, mystical atmosphere, I felt created to a rather muted, quiet atmosphere in the theatre, rather than electricity.  I feel my seat up at the top of the theatre was slightly disadvantageous for the sometimes dark lighting and dark costumes of the Beast, and the crows, and made it difficult to fully appreciate some of the ensemble pieces. On the other hand, this created a wonderfully effective contrast with the shining white presence of Belle. 


While I'd recommend this ballet to anyone, I'd  probably not travel to see it again but if it toured again near my home I would certainly go again, and book well in advance for a seat nearer the stage. 


Finally just mention another highlight was seeing Karla Doorbar in a lead role and admiring her poise and technique which make eager to see more of her, she looks to me to have all the elements of a top rank dancer - very convincing. And so glad for another opportunity to see the luminous Lebowitz who I've admired for many years, it's been a privilege to watch this stunning dancer in a variety of roles. 


I see the poster was up in the Lowry for BRB Swan Lake in March 2020, confirming that there will be no Autumn visit. This is awfully disappointing to me, I've attended Autumn and Spring for several years now. Fortunately Birmingham is close enough that I can potentially travel there too as a substitute. 



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Cheers Janet, I didn't do much wandering around on Thu as I was feeling a bit under the weather, and on Sat I was with friends and a small child that kept me occupied!


Will no doubt bump into you again shortly. Alas, not at the BRB Lowry Autumn visit... Sob ... Maybe the next time will be Birmingham, I'm looking at the calendar now...

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Northstar, please do NOT miss Hobson's Choice, either at the Hippodrome or Sadler's Wells.  It is David Bintley's finest work and a joy from start to finish.  With the Changing of the Guard we may not have the chance to see it again for a very long time, if ever.

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  • John Mallinson changed the title to Birmingham Royal Ballet: Beauty and the Beast, 2019

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