The mark of a good parody, is the ability to pick up on the tiniest of details, and weave them into the new plot without the need for too much explanation. Fat Rascal Theatre seem to have perfected this art with their new production of Beauty and the Beast: a Musical Parody at the King’s Head Theatre, from the bouncing Pixar lamp through to the talking tea pot, there is no doubt that this is a homage to the most famous telling of Beauty and the Beast.
The story arch, from Robyn Grant and Daniel Elliot, is almost identical to the Disney versions, but with one major difference. The roles have been gender swapped, so the Beast is now a former beautiful princess, transformed to a growling female beast by the magical enchanter, while Beauty is now in fact Beau, a handsome intellectual, obsessed with Jane Austin.
The swapping of the roles highlights some of the ridiculousness of stereotyping, but anyone who’s looking for some kind of prophetic gender statement will be disappointed, unless they deliberately look very hard. This production is all about having fun, and it does not disappoint on that front, from start to finish it is a riot of enjoyment, gloriously witty and bursting with enthusiasm.
This comes mainly from the company, who throw themselves at it full throttle, they are clearly enjoying themselves, and working hard, for there are only five of them to take on the many different roles. This allows for some comedy moments itself, at one point Allie Munro must play Maureen and La Fou Fou in the same scene, which keeps the audience thoroughly entertained.
Aaron Dart shows off a variety of accents in his many roles, including Mr. Spout, yes even Mrs. Potts, Lumiere and Chip (now Crack) have been gender swapped. Katie Wells plays a wonderful Chevonne, while co-writer, Robyn Grant, is transformed in to the Beast thanks to some pretty impressive design from Hugh Purves.
Jamie Mawson is delightful as Beau, his physical performance is in itself hilarious, but he also has a superb singing voice, he is in every way perfect for the role. Musical Director, Nicola Chang is on stage throughout, providing the entire soundtrack with only a piano and solitary drum.
James Ringer-Beck’s music definitely has that Disney-esque sound, “please don’t sue us Disney” sing the company after their distinctly more humorous version of Beauty and the Beast, and while Beau is not invited to be our guest, he is instead invited to “have a brunch”. It’s all very tongue in cheek, but the songs stand up on their own, and it is a thoroughly enjoyable score.
This tale as old as time (or story you’ve heard before), has been given a wonderful modern twist that allows it to stand out from the other festive productions doing the rounds. It may be a little rough around the edges but that only adds to its charm, and ultimately Beauty and the Beast: a Musical Parody leaves its audience utterly enchanted.