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A beauty of a show

PUBLISHED: 11:21 14 March 2008 | UPDATED: 13:05 06 May 2010

Beauty and the Beast

Beauty and the Beast

IT S hard to imagine a team of acrobatic and whirling ice-dancers bringing to life a Disney classic in the intimacy of a theatre venue. But the Russian Ice Stars do just that in their latest production of Beauty and the Beast, and they do so in an enchant

IT'S hard to imagine a team of acrobatic and whirling ice-dancers bringing to life a Disney classic in the intimacy of a theatre venue.

But the Russian Ice Stars do just that in their latest production of Beauty and the Beast, and they do so in an enchanting, creative and dazzling way.

The show opened at the Alban Arena on Wednesday night and surprisingly the majority of the audience were actually adults, proving that this production really is for the young and old alike.

It was the first time I had seen the ice stars in action and I was truly blown away by their show-stopping theatrics and the incredible momentum they manage to conjure up across the space of the marginally-extended stage.

Most will know the story well, but Beauty and the Beast is a love-conquers-all tale focused on the age-old adage that beauty is skin deep.

It all begins when a handsome prince is turned into an ugly beast in an horrific spell cast by an enchantress disguised as an old hag, after he refuses to help her having been repulsed by her appearance.

The only way to break the spell is for the beast to find true love and, needless to say, the beauty (aka Belle) falls for his charms.

The show is not terribly close to the Disney depiction of the fairytale so many are familiar with, but the ice stars offer a refreshing take on it.

Forget about the warm-hearted anthropomorphic servants in the film, such as Mrs Potts the teapot and her lovable china cup son Chip; the castle creatures appear somewhat dark, sinister and gothic.

Moody lighting, spooky music and smoke effects also work hard to create this dark gloomy medieval castle atmosphere superbly.

In contrast, there are plenty of bright and vivacious scenes with a host of colourful, eye-catching costumes whizzing around the stage.

Each backdrop is cleverly revealed by the changing pages of an enormous book with a narrator illustrating the story behind each scene.

The show provides a sublime blend of graceful and sometimes moving ballet ice-dancing with exhilarating and gasp-inducing circus antics.

At some points the skaters were suspended by a rope from the ceiling spiralling around fast enough to make any spectator feel a tad giddy, then elegantly gliding back down onto the ice to continue with more moves.

The highlight of the show had to be the last scene of the first act, in which the audience are treated to the enchanting Dance of the Magic Table.

As the tired and hungry Belle sits down to eat, the castle creatures surround her and give a whirling, unforgettable performance complete with fire-juggling, trampoline-powered spinning jumps and ribbon dancing from the ceiling.

The final scene doesn't disappoint either as the castle is transformed back into a glittering palace of dreams with the skaters dressed in elegant flowing silk, gracefully whizzing around in all manner of lifts and jumps.

Olga Pershankova as Belle and her father's character played by Mikhail Stifounine, were particularly remarkable in their commanding solos and scenes together.

And the towering Andrey Chuvilyaev, who played the beast, contradicted the opinion that tall people are clumsy skaters with his flawless dancing.

It's not to be missed - after seeing some these jaw-dropping moves the 'wow' factor of Dancing on Ice will most definitely fade.

The show will be running at the Alban Arena until (tomorrow) Saturday and ticket prices range from £15.50 to £24.50. Visit www.alban-arena.co.uk for further details.

Aimee Brannen.

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