BARNSTAPLE Musical Comedy are embarking on a gruelling two-month intensive rehearsal period for what will arguably be their most ambitious project undertaken as they approach their 90th year. They are staging Disney s version of Beauty and the Beast, and

BARNSTAPLE Musical Comedy are embarking on a gruelling two-month intensive rehearsal period for what will arguably be their most ambitious project undertaken as they approach their 90th year.

They are staging Disney's version of Beauty and the Beast, and are, at the same time, celebrating unprecedented success for the company having won not one, but two awards for last year's production of Blitz!

Company chairman, Trevor Wayborn and former chairman and director of Blitz, Kev Behan, travelled to Taunton to receive the National and Operatic Association's award for Excellence for their production of the Lionel Bart classic which was staged in Barnstaple last November.

In addition to this award they also won first place in the Poster Competition, beating every other amateur society in the South West of England with the corporate poster for Blitz!, also designed by Kev Behan, which depicted St Pauls' Cathedral as the centrepiece. The poster will now go forward to the National Competition. The awards were presented by National President, Mrs Margaret Coltman, at the NODA SW AGM.

With no time to waste, the society must now turn its attention to their next extravaganza, which promises North Devon audiences a spectacular night at the theatre for all ages. Although derived from the classic Disney animation, the show had 'grown up' by the time it reached the stage, and it now encompasses all the attributes of a 21st Century musical, but with a large handful of Disney dust thrown in for good measure.

One of the elements that impressed the judges of Blitz! were the pyrotechnics employed in telling the story of the air raids, and once again these will play a leading role in this next production. Add to this a magic rose which sheds its petals before the audiences eyes, a cranky invention by a nutty professor, a pack of howling wolves and a whole host of enchanted, life size characters, this will truly be a magnificent spectacle.

And this is not all, the costumes and breathtaking sets being used are those used on the UK tour of the show and to top things off, the powerful Alan Menken score will be brought to life by a live 12-piece orchestra, under the baton of Musical Director Malcolm Read secreted beneath the stage to enable every inch of space for choreographer Maralyn Williamson who both return to the society for another year.

Kev Behan once again leads the production team and is looking forward to the challenges that lay ahead.

"It is an iconic show and we know our audiences will expect to see the usual high standards associated with this company, but also they will be expecting to see a "movie-on-stage" version. They will not be disappointed."

He added "With the calibre of cast we have at our disposal we can hardly fail to impress."

Local actor/director Ian Goodenough takes on the mammoth role of the misunderstood intimidating Beast, whilst Joss Wyre, who will be remembered for her portrayal of Dorothy with BP in 2009, takes the Disney princess role of Belle. Stuart Thompson returns to the company with Peter Stagg to play the bullying buffoon Gaston and his lowly sidekick Lefou, and Debbie Ely-Gillbanks plays the loveable teapot Mrs Potts.

A full company of 34 members will bring the story to life, which opens at the Queen's Theatre, Barnstaple on Wednesday November 10 and runs until Saturday November 13 at 7.15pm with a matinee on Saturday at 2.15pm.

Gazette readers will be have the chance to win VIP tickets to a special Gala Night in a competition to be run in the paper during October.

Tickets are already on sale at the theatre box office, and can be purchased in person, or by phone on 01271 324242 or on line at www.northdevontheatres.org.uk.