Words by Howard Ashman & Tim Rice and Music by Alan Menken
Nuffield Theatre,
January 2013
Director: Victoria Luke
Cast List
Belle (Matinee)
Beast / Prince
Mrs Potts
Chip - a
Chip - b
Silly Girl
Silly Girl
Silly Girl

Notes on this performance

Disney’s Beauty and the Beast 

The cost of success…

Tony Lehrle-Fry had decided that a year as Chairman was quite enough and was replaced at the AGM by two people! Jonathan Fulcher and Terry O’Farrell took over as Joint Chairmen and they inherited a very ‘interesting’ situation. Disney’s Beauty and the Beast was the latest production, with Vic Luke directing and Nigel Finch as the MD, but finances were already out of hand. It was shaping up to be the most spectacular show that SOS had ever put on, as it had everything – professional set and costumes, pyrotechnics and actors flying – but all at a cost. When the price of putting a wardrobe team up in a hotel and hiring a fireman to oversee the ‘fireworks’ were included, it cost quite a lot!

The Committee eventually realised that if every single ticket were sold then the show would still make a loss. Consequently an extra matinee was added and with full houses, it would then have made a small profit but, typically, it snowed on the Tuesday and opened to less than half a house. By the Saturday, word had got round that this was a superb show and it was nearly impossible to buy a ticket, but the damage had already been done! Beauty and the Beast was a colourful extravaganza, it must have won SOS many new supporters and the relative financial success of the next show may have been a happy consequence. Another bonus was that it attracted several new members, some of whom stayed on for subsequent productions.

The auditions for principal parts were fiercely contested with Natalie Thorn gaining the prized role of Belle; Lucy Baston, from DYT, also excelled and was made her understudy, playing the part at the afternoon matinee. Two other DYT girls (Marie Willsher and Hannah Irvine) shared the part of Chip whilst former DYT stalwarts Joseph Wright and Natalie Buston were LeFou and Babette respectively. Another member (Ellen Sly) joined Natalie Palmer and Ellie Robinson to create the Silly Girls. Beauty and the Beast owed much to the decision to form the junior group in 1987.

The Echo reporter attended the opening night, when the backstage crew had not fully got to grips with all the technical problems and this was duly noted, but he singled out the following for special mention: ‘Eighteen year old Natalie Thorn was cast as Belle and treated the audience to an impressive performance, acting with passion and singing beautifully. Phil Bailey also did very well in his first lead-role as the Beast. Mike Pavitt appeared to base his interpretation of village lothario Gaston on Elvis, but was good value for it, supported by the energetic Joseph Wright (LeFou). 

Choreographer Marina Voak, Roger Lamb and Jonathan Fulcher all performed well as, respectively, Mrs Potts, Lumiere and Cogsworth. The choreographed scenes were wonderful, Nigel Finch led a talented orchestra and director Victoria Luke delivered a visually stunning show with several ambitious special effects.’

The Committee was relieved that the loss was not more than £5805, but in the future it would have to be careful to prioritise financial considerations over artistic acclaim.

Terry O'Farrell

Photo of Townspeople

Mike Pavitt (Gaston), Natasha Palmer, Ellie Robinson, Ellen Sly (The Silly Girls) and Natalie Thorn (Belle) with the villagers

Photo of Bar Scene

Mike Pavitt (Gaston) and Joseph Wright (LeFou) in the bar scene

Photo of Beast

Marina Voak (Mrs Potts), Roger Lamb (Lumiere), Philip Bailey (The Beast), Jonathan Fulcher (Cogsworth)

Photo of Be Our Guest

'Be Our Guest' with Marina Voak (Mrs Potts), Maria Willsher (Chip), Sam Sly (Wardrobe), Roger Lamb (Lumiere), Natalie Thorn (Belle), Natalie Buston (Babette) and Jonathan Fulcher (Cogsworth)

Photo of Maurice

 Tony Lehrle-Fry (Maurice) held by Dan O'Farrell and David Collis with Mark Allen (D'Arque) and Natalie Thorn (Belle)

Photo of Mob

Mike Pavitt (Gaston) and Joseph Wright (LeFou) lead the mob