Review: Beauty & The Beast, Northern Ballet, Leeds Grand Theatre, Tuesday, June 4, 2024

Leeds based Northern Ballet’s smash-hit production of Beauty & The Beast was first produced and choreographed back in 2011 by their then artistic director, David Nixon CBE.

Last week, Nixon’s contemporary take on the French fairytale made an eagerly awaited return to packed houses at the Grand Theatre. Thanks to the storytelling artistry of these dancers, the enchanting scenery and lighting; its timeless message of inner beauty triumphing over wickedness remains as fresh and vivid as ever. Self worshipping Prince Orian, danced by Jackson Dwyer, is so enamoured of his mirrored reflection that he barely notices the arrival of a hooded, stooping figure begging for shelter. She reveals herself as La Fee Magnifique a wicked fairy who transforms the Prince into a fearsome Beast - part creature, part human. The spell can only be broken if the Beast finds true love before the last petal drops from a snow white rose that he has been given.

Enter the wholesome Beauty danced by Saeka Shirai with a wonderful sense of line. Beauty chooses to live with the reclusive Beast in his castle in exchange for her abducted father. The pair eventually realise they are destined for each other. Beauty declares her love and the beast is returned to his original state as Prince Orian, now a reformed character. Of course, they live happily ever after.

The role of the Beast is a physical tour de force, performed by David Nixon himself in the original production. The dancer has to spend most of the ballet with his knees slightly bent and a tension in the entire body, like a big cat poised for the kill. Harris Beattie interpreted this demanding role and climbed the scenery like Spiderman at last week’s opening performance. Beattie beautifully projected the torment and underlying tenderness of the Beast.

The music was arranged by John Longstaff and played live by the Northern Ballet Sinfonia, conducted by Daniel Parkinson. Such colourful orchestral pieces as Bizet’s Jeux d’enfants, Debussy’s La Mer and Poulenc’s Concerto for Organ, Strings and Timpani sounded as if composed especially for this ballet. The blazing finale of the Organ Symphony by Saint-Saens brought Beauty and the Beast to a joyous conclusion and a thunderous reception for the dancers and orchestra.

Northern Ballet’s management have decided to replace their splendid orchestra with recorded music for some touring productions. Please sign the Musician Union’s petition in support of live music for every production. Visit