This week, my 8 year-old daughter and I visited Neptune Theatre to see the fairy tale classic, Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. We made a night of it, having pre-show drinks and a delicious chocolate mousse at Obladee Wine Bar, before heading up the hill to the show. Going to the theatre is a special event for us, and we always make a big deal of it, dressing up a little bit, sometimes having dinner beforehand.
Scroll down for 5 Tips to Get the Best out of your Neptune Theatre Experience
A fairy tale classic, the Disney version of Beauty and the Beast that you will see at Neptune this season does not sugar coat: it explores mature themes such as beauty, vanity, rejection, romantic love, love between a father and daughter, and even the theme of madness, with both Belle and her darling father accused by their provincial neighbours as being “crazy” and “different”. There is humour too, expressed through the very physical buffoonery of Gaston (the egotistical neighbourhood muscle-man), as well as softer moments such as a cleverly choreographed exchange of gestures between Belle and the Beast as they sit down for dinner, finally falling in love.
My daughter’s eyes lit up every time the entire cast joined on stage, such as during the chorus “Be our Guest”, with its stunning routines and glittery cabaret feel.
But in addition to the singing and dancing, one of the major highlights of the Beauty and the Beast for us was the magic of the props and costumes. In contrast to the “big-box” Beauty and the Beast touring show we saw a few years ago at Scotiabank Centre, where travelling actors struggled to fill the large stadium space, Neptune’s 2016 performance is backdropped by props that were made bespoke for the Neptune stage, giving an intimate, magical feel to the play. The special effects were also really great: chimney smoke, pops, bangs and a dazzling magic mirror all added to the fantasy experience.
Belle, played by Ellen Denny, was perfect, but our favourite actor of the evening, hands-down (ha ha) was Jeremy Web as Cogsworth, the castle’s butler transformed by spell into a Grandfather Clock. Interestingly, Webb also played the same role in Neptune’s 2007 production of Beauty and the Beast, the only returning actor. I didn’t get the chance to ask Webb how it feels to be type-cast as a clock, but I suppose that there are worse things…being type-cast as a cheese grater or a whisk, perhaps? Jeremy Webb, incidentally, is very active on the Halifax theatre and family entertainment scene, as Artistic Director of Eastern Front Theatre (which organizes the Stages Theatre Festival), and as the organizer of the immensely popular Touch-a-Truck annual fundraiser.
I have rarely been to the theatre when a standing ovation begins at the first stage of the curtain call (rather than the end, when the entire cast is on stage), but that’s what happened on the night we saw the play. To say “the audience loved it” is an understatement, and I predict many more standing ovations for all those happy endings between now and October 7th.
Disney’s Beauty and the Beast opens on Friday August 19th and runs until October 9th at Neptune Theatre.
5 Tips to Get the Best out of your Neptune Theatre Experience
1. Ensure The Play is Age-Appropriate
Beauty and The Beast is a play for children who have reasonable attention spans. The show is about 2.5 hours long including the intermission. There are a few scary parts, and some cool pyrotechnics and strobe effects. For these reasons, babes in arms and children under the age of four are not permitted in the theatre.
2. Get A Deal at “Pay What You Can” Tuesdays
Every performance offers a “pay what you can” evening on the first Tuesday of the production. Warning: you have to show up about 3 hours before the show starts, for a chance to get a seat and it’s so popular that many get turned away!
3. Ask For a Booster Seat
Neptune Theatre has a limited supply of handy booster seats, so kids can get a fair chance at seeing the stage. Arrive early and request one from house staff.
4. Order Intermission Drinks
To save time at intermission, per-order your drinks before the show starts. We ordered and paid for two “Chip’s Drinks”- a couple of lovely Shirley Temples, before the show, and it was a special treat to have them waiting for us at intermission.
5. Bring Some Water
Bottled water and soft drinks are allowed in the theatre, but not coffee or snacks. A bottle of water is a good idea in case of a dry throat or thirst (but not too much… there’s only one intermission!).