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Review: Beauty and the Beast reimagines the classic tale as old as time

This fabulous family show brings a fresh insight to a story already adored by audiences

Based on the classic Disney animation from 1991, Beauty and the Beast – The Musical features the classic songs we’ve grown to know and love, such as Belle and Gaston amongst others.

But there are also previously unheard original songs brought into this adaption, to allow for a crystal-clear storyline to be told on stage. The unfamiliar soliloquies of If I Can’t Love Her and A Change in Me provide a fresh insight to a tale already adored by audiences. 

Modelled on the lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice, this celebrated fairy tale provides a plot that was one of the first of its kind when first released, and remains as relevant as ever today. 

Young Belle feels desolate in her hometown, because her passion for gaining knowledge and reading books makes her an outcast amongst the villagers. 

What’s more, she does not define her life by looks or marriage. Instead, she longs for an adventure that is too big for her provincial town to provide. 

In a twisted turn of events, this is exactly what she gets.

Photo: Johan Persson © Disney

Belle takes the place of the Beast’s captive to allow her father his freedom. The Beast, however, has a secret longing of his own. 

Though once a prince, he was shallow, and dismissed a pleading woman because of her haggard appearance. In turn, she cursed him into the form of a grotesque beast. 

To return to a handsome prince, he must find beauty within another, and they must see it from within him, too. The woman left him with an enchanted rose, which shows through wilting petals how long the Beast has before the curse becomes permanent.

A brilliant touch is having Angela Lansbury as the voice of the narrator who details the past events within the prologue. This is a great homage to the definitive film, within which she was the voice and song actor of Mrs Potts. 

Courtney Stapleton as Belle is simply magical. She is clever, charming, and witty, everything the beloved character of Belle is. She embodies the character wonderfully and her voice and dancing are admirable. 

Performing opposite Stapleton, Shaq Taylor menacingly manifests the Beast initially, but gloriously strips back the intimidating façade to reveal the kind-hearted nature Belle grows fond of. 

But Belle and the Beast are not the only dazzling duo on stage. 

Lumiere (Gavin Lee) and Cogsworth (Nigel Richards) are a dynamic pair of characters who bounce off of each other, together heightening the comedy and delightfully achieving roars of laughter from the audience. 

Gaston (Tom Senior) and Le Fou (Liam Buckland) bring to life the villain everyone loves to hate and his jaunty sidekick. 

This vigorous friendship has dynamics completely different to that of Lumiere and Cogsworth but are as equivalently hilarious with the use of physical comedy and downright opposites of not only character but physique. 

An honourable mention goes to Sam Bailey who plays Mrs Potts, one half of a set, along with Chip (Rojae Simpson). 

Bailey performs the legendary Beauty and the Beast and does a superb job. You may recognise her name from The X Factor, as she was the winner of the series in 2013.

Photo: Johan Persson © Disney

The staging and effects of Beauty and the Beast – The Musical are impeccable. 

The back curtain portrays the environment and surroundings with projections that alternate between the French countryside, the wolf-infested wood, and the landscape in which the Beast’s castle sits as well as its gothic interior. 

Translucent stage curtains are used for projections of the multiple wolf attacks, magnifying the piercing fangs which through the translucency allows the audience to watch the actors behind the curtain interact with the shadows. This staging is incredibly apt, and a method rarely seen before. 

The rotating stage flooring is used consistently throughout the performance, sliding set into place and swivelling characters into position, and the enchanted rose set piece glows humbly when action occurs in the West Wing, the use of lighting dramatically illustrating the falling of the final petals.

The staging is sensational throughout Be Our Guest, which turns the dark, sharp, gothic interior into a brilliantly vibrant scene with gleaming lights, vivid staging and scintillating costumes. 

Lumiere leads this show, but the ensemble are outstanding, with numerous costume changes throughout the number, each as sparkly as the last. 

They perform an entirely synchronised routine on the circular rotating stage floor, which is recorded from above and projected against the back for audiences without a clear view of the choreography. 

Within the number, there is a tap interlude which Belle joins in with, and genuine joy seems to radiate from Stapleton which absolutely captivates the audience.

The costumes are astonishing. Ann Hould-Ward, the costume designer, is a credit to this production as she brings to life Belle’s dreamy yellow-gold dress to life in the most quintessential way. 

Twinkling every which way the lights hit it, it is the perfect dress for this princess. Audiences are audibly awestruck when this costume makes its appearance. 

The Beast’s suit of velvet royal blue wonderfully complements Belle’s dress as it incorporates detailing of the same yellow fabric.

Beauty and the Beast – The Musical is a fabulous family show. Children are delighted by the magical effects and optical illusions, and adults and parents can rejoice in the fresh adaptation of a story that they may have grown up with. 

There is much laughter to be shared between the audience, the visuals are spectacular, and the beautifully diverse representation on stage is sincerely gratifying.

Beauty and the Beast – The Musical is running in Manchester’s Palace Theatre until Saturday 4th June 2022. Accessible performances include a signed performance on 20th April, 7.30pm; audio described performance on 4th May, 7.30pm; a relaxed performance on 10th May, 5pm; and a captioned performance on 18th May, 7.30pm. Tickets start at £20.

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