Not a great evening

Dance: Beauty & the Beast Royal Albert Hall, London
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The Independent Culture
The snow lay thick in Kensington Gore but inside the Albert Hall we were keeping our coats on. Something to do with the 12-ton ice cube in the middle of the auditorium I suppose, but the chill deepened as the Russian All Stars version of Beauty and the Beast progressed. "On ice" is often used as shorthand for tacky, badly dressed, highly coloured dross.

There is a very good reason for this. From the moment that the witch appeared in her egg-shaped bubble car you just knew it wasn't going to be a great evening. Egg? I hear you ask. What egg? Surely there isn't an egg in Beauty and the Beast? There is in this one. The production's major flaw (and there are many) is that a story which most well-read seven- year-olds could happily precis in 50 words ("Once upon a time there was a rich merchant who had three daughters...") is dragged out to a staggering 61 scenes. David Wood's elephantine scenario makes time for a drunken sailors' hornpipe, a tango and a game of chess. To say that the audience lost the plot is putting it mildly. Programmes rustle and the child behind me loses all patience: "Who is that person?"

In their versions of Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella the All Stars stuck firmly to the traditional ballet stories. Comparisons are invited with classical ballet and dance critics are duly dispatched to review the shows but the parallels are more with Jayne Torvill than Darcey Bussell and the All Stars are bound to suffer in comparison. Torvill and Dean routines only last a few minutes; for all its inventive athleticism ice dancing simply doesn't contain enough moves to fill two hours and 22 minutes.

Ice dancing usually hitches a ride on great or memorable music and the All Stars have, in the past, used Tchaikovsky and Prokofiev but the current tour uses David Essex whose long career on the musical stage has clearly left a lasting impression. Ice dancers wear increasingly stylish outfits but the All Stars inumerable costumes are of unimaginable awfulness - one of the Prince's sidekicks sports white furry lapels, organza puff sleeves and a turquoise tartan bustle (and that's just the men). Young children would be bored and confused (the 10-year-old behind me was taken away at the interval) and most adults will be flabbergasted by this overlong, incoherent, ill-dressed extravaganza.

The Albert Hall was full for this gala performance which was in aid of the Elton John Aids Foundation. There were huge numbers of punters in stalls seats purportedly costing pounds 25 each. If every one of those people had paid full whack I'm Katarina Witt.

n 19-24 Dec, Cardiff Ice Rink (01222 224488) then touring

LOUISE LEVENE

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