2:45 PM July 4, 2022
Beauty and The Beast
After the magical spectacle of Frozen, another Disney stage adaptation roars into the West End – albeit temporarily – packed with eye-popping special effects, lavish costumes and heartwarming performances.
Based on a French fairy-tale, it’s almost pantomime simple – and despite input from Tim Rice – not nearly as musically memorable as Alan Menken and Howard Ashman’s other monstrous tale, Little Shop of Horrors.
But after taking a while to get going, director/choreographer Matt West puts on a slick entertainment, full of brio and sentiment, jolly jigging peasants and tap-dancing candlesticks, that will surely please fans of the 1991 animation.
Courtney Stapleton gives bookish, pure-hearted Belle a feisty edge, rejecting the advances of narcissistic meathead Gaston (Tom Senior) while yearning for adventure away from her provincial village.
She finds it in the dimly lit castle of Shaq Taylor’s Beast. He was a selfish Prince condemned by an enchantress to spend his life as a hideous beast unless he can love and inspire love in return. Disney simplified the original tale while adding a characteristically engaging flourish – that the Prince’s servants become household ornaments until the spell is broken.
Thus, clad in Anne Hould-Ward’s stunning costumes, Gavin Lee’s camp gold-clad Lumiere, Samantha Bingley’s sexy sideboard Madame, and Sam Bailey’s maternal Mrs Potts, become hopeful matchmakers, smoothing down Beast’s rough edges and encouraging his burgeoning friendship with Belle. Be Our Guest sees them put on a terrifically indulgent but fun routine that segues from Can-Can to Chorus Line and Busby Berkeley number.
There’s also several stunning transformation scenes, a semi-animated wolf attack and a climactic grapple between Beast and Gaston amid flashes of lightning.
But the sound and fury is naught without a convincing central pairing and Taylor nails Beast’s self loathing and vulnerability in the soaring ballad If I Can’t Love Her, while Stapleton also delivers both vocally and emotionally with her affection for Beast.
Meanwhile Bailey appeals to the tear ducts, lending the title song a touching simplicity.
Beauty and The Beast runs until September 17 at The London Palladium. https://www.beautyandthebeastmusical.co.uk/