DON'T mistake Birmingham Royal Ballet's production of Beauty and the Beast for the musical of the same name, even though the much-loved fairytale has the same happy ending with the beast transformed back into a handsome prince.
No human teapots, cups and saucers, clocks or candelabra here, and the story opens with the cruel prince coming under the spell of a mystery woodsman who saves a pretty vixen from thoughtless huntsmen.
The first half of the ballet – performed at Birmingham Hippodrome – is more beastly than beauty, full of anger, dark costumes and scenery, as well as a darkened stage, and even bailiffs turn up to confiscate furniture from the home of Belle's debt-troubled merchant father whose ships haven't come in.
There is, however, a complete transformation after the interval when the lavish gold decorations inside the Beast's castle simply glow as a gathering of people, also turned into remarkable creatures, dance beautifully at a special ball.
Here the brilliant lighting effects designed by Mark Jonathan come into their own, and the costumes are superb, too.
David Bintley's choreography, as ever, is a delight.
There are outstanding performances from Nao Sakuma (Belle) and Iain Mackay (The Beast), while Glenn Buhr's music is perfectly delivered by the Royal Ballet Sinfonia, conducted by Paul Murphy.
by Paul Marston