WIN: tickets to Beauty and the Beast at Sunderland Empire

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A beastly ballet will take over Sunderland Empire next month. Katy Wheeler finds out what Wearside can expect.

A magical feast” – that’s how Marion Tait sums up the family favourite ballet, Beauty and the Beast.

Birmingham Royal Ballet (BRB) returns to its home in the North East with a sumptuous production of the gothic fairytale.

“It’s got so many elements,” said Marion who juggles being assistant director with performing the role of grandmother in the show. “You have these interesting characters – the transformation of the prince into a beast, the beautiful Belle, the dysfunctional sisters – combined with these beautiful costumes and gorgeous sets, it’s very resplendent and grand.

“The sets were specially-commissioned so they’re made-to-measure for the piece.”

To coincide with the company’s visit to the Empire next month, its home in the North East, educational visits will be staged at local schools to engage them in the art of ballet.

“I think sometimes parents make the mistake of taking children to a long ballet, such as Sleeping Beauty which is around three hours. But Beauty and the Beast is perfect as a first ballet as it’s just over two hours.”

Marion has had a long and distinguished career with the ballet stage.

She joined the Royal Ballet School at 15, graduating to The Royal Ballet’s touring company. She danced the ballerina roles in all the classics and in Romeo and Juliet, Elite Syncopations, Las Hermanas, The Invitation, Hobson’s Choice, The Dream, The Burrow, Fall River Legend and Pillar of Fire.

As well as being nominated for two Olivier Awards and winning the Evening Standard Ballet Award, she was given an OBE in 1992 and made a CBE in the 2003 Queen’s Birthday Honours.

Though the stage is her home, she says she relishes the opportunity to guide other dancers behind the scenes.

“It’s lovely being on stage, but I relish those times I can sit out front and help other dancers with tweaking their performance,” she said. Over the years she has visited the Empire stage countless times and says it holds fond memories.

“I’ve been coming to the Empire for 46 years with BRB, and it’s always been one of my favourite dates on the tour,” she said.  

“We have shorter weeks now, as we used to run Monday to Saturday, but it means your audience is more condensed. I love those proper, old theatres. The way they were built means you can really push out to the audience and make an impact.”

This production of Beauty and the Beast, created by celebrated choreographer David Bintley, is one of the company’s most popular in its repertoire, but won’t be staged again for a number of years.

It tells the story of a once-wealthy merchant who seeks shelter in a mysterious castle, where invisible forces tend to his every need. The merchant’s older daughters have demanded gifts of gold, jewels and fine clothes; the youngest, Belle, has asked for a single rose.

But when the merchant plucks just one bloom from the garden of the castle, he unleashes a fearsome Beast, who exacts a terrible forfeit: in return for the merchant’s life, he must send his daughter Belle to live in the castle.

As the beautiful Belle prepares to meet her beastly captor, she is about to discover for herself the meaning of true love.

Music is provided by members of the Royal Ballet Sinfonia, the orchestra of Birmingham Royal Ballet.

•Beauty and the Beast is at Sunderland Empire from November 6-8. Tickets priced £13 can be purchased in person from the Box Office on High Street West, Sunderland or from £14.90 from the Ticket Centre on 0844 871 3022 and online at www.ATGtickets.com/Sunderland.

•Anyone with tickets for the Saturday matinee is able to attend a family fun day on Saturday, November 8, from 12.30pm-2.30pm, at the Empire. Families can go behind the scenes with Birmingham Royal Ballet and find out about various elements including costume and make up.

We’ve teamed up with Sunderland Empire to give away a pair of tickets for opening night on November 6.

To be in with a chance of winning, answer this question: what is the name of the heroine in Beauty and the Beast?

A) Belle

B) Beatrice

C) Belinda

Email your answer with your contact details to Katy.Wheeler@jpress.co.uk.

Closing date: October 16.