Beauty and the Beast takes Melbourne by Storm
On With the Show’s
Flashback to 1996
By SHIRLEY BROUN
HAVING clocked more than 300 performances in the Premiere Melbourne production of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast already, Bert Newton is revelling in the enchantment his role brings to the stage of the Princess Theatre.
Bert plays the stuffy head butler, Cogsworth, who has been transformed into a clock, while his master – the prince – lives life as the `beast’ (played by Michael Cormick). His close ally is Lumiere (Tony Harvey) – the prince’s faithful valet who now stands tall as a candelabra.
It seems the national television show host and multi-media personality is seen to be rather enchanting himself having previously been the Wizard in the VAC/VSO spectacular, Wizard of Oz, and also played a leading role in the pantomime, Cinderella.
This latest Kevin Jacobsen/Michael Edgley stage extravaganza, which is attracting sell-out crowds, virtually came out of the blue for the much-loved stage, television and radio personality who has a talent for `making people happy’.
“Kevin Jacobsen rang me. I thought he may have wanted me to do something at the show’s opening but, instead, he offered me the role of Cogsworth,” said Bert. “Apparently, the show’s talent scouts had seen me in Cinderella at the State Theatre in Sydney. I was then asked to meet with the American producers and directors and several days later the deal was done.”
Bert has since proved to be one of the all-time favourite characters in this multi-million dollar production. “He is wonderful as Cogsworth the clock,” said one audience member. “His face just lights up, he really gets into the role and he makes everyone laugh as he waddles across the stage – his costume is just brilliant, although it must be quite a challenge to move in.”
Bert says he has got `putting on the costume’ down to a fine art. “We do eight performances a week (seven when his show, Good morning Australia, is on air) so I have had plenty of practice, and can now get dressed in 20 minutes.
Bert lives by the old showbiz adage: `The show must go on’. The pressure of producing one and a half hours of live television together with a three hour performance on stage each day, does not phase this seasoned performer in the slightest.
“I have often combined interests in the past – such as radio and TV work, etc,” he said. “I have always believed that if you are enjoying what you do, then it is not hard work. and, believe me, I’m enjoying it. ” So too are the audiences who make up the full houses the show has enjoyed since its opening on July 8 last year (1995).
Bert says, friend Kevin Jacobsen has done an extraordinary job in staging Beauty and the Beast in Australia. “You can see just how much time and effort has been injected into the production. Just look at the costuming, magnificent sets, illusions, etc – by opening night $10.5 million had been spent.”
The all-Australian production, on licence from Disney, also features some of the country’s greatest performers and each, Bert says, brings something unique to their roles. “A great majority of audiences know the story of Beauty and the Beast so it is up to the actors to make it special.”
As for Cogsworth, Bert – having not seen the animated version – said he approached the character as he saw him. “He is a warm, likeable and funny character,” he said.
Bert is enjoying his role so much that he intends to tour with the production when it moves to Sydney later in the year. “This is a superior production, with many surprises. It is entertainment at its very best and should not be missed.”
Bert’s son, Matthew, seems to be following in his father’s footsteps having this year started a three-year course at NIDA.Tweet