Written by Roxanne Perron.
As a huge fan of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, getting to watch the stage adaptation at the Palace Theater was nothing short of a sensational experience. Watching the Disney magic that happens live on stage throughout the production fulfilled every expectation of the little girl inside of me who used to watch the 1991 classic twice a day and who knows the songs and dialogue of the film by heart.
The show is chock-full of memorable moments, from beginning to end. I had chills throughout the performance as my favourite parts of the film were reproduced live before my eyes. One such moment was, in the reprise of ‘Belle’, when Courtney Stapleton runs to the front of the stage to sing “I want adventure in the great wide somewhere”. As I have this quote tattooed on my body, her powerful delivery of this line gave me goosebumps, and I instantly knew that the casting department had chosen a perfect Belle.
Another highlight was the entirety of the scene in the library, wherein Belle teaches the Beast how to read. It was such a sweet and tender scene that Stapleton and Shaq Taylor (as Beast) brought to life so masterfully with their physical acting.
This was shortly followed by the ballroom scene, and the moment when Belle appears at the top of a staircase in THE dress is purely unforgettable—the entire audience gasped in unison. The waltz in front of a backdrop of stars then proceeded to move me to tears.
Finally, the Beast’s transformation at the end of the show was an incredible feat of pure magic, making me tear up once again. I truly have no idea how they manage to execute the effect, but that moment alone embodies the essence of theatrical magic and is something that everyone should get the chance to see for themselves.
The story of Beauty and the Beast is also synonymous to many classic songs, which the musical did justice to in every way. ‘Be our Guest’ was nothing short of spectacular, with dancing dishes, an astounding tap-dancing interlude, and a switch to a video-streamed birds-eye view of choreography carried out by the ensemble on the ground. However, despite ‘Be Our Guest’ being the most extravagant of the musical numbers, the others should not be discounted in the slightest. The choreography of ‘Gaston’ mesmerised me—the use of beer mugs as accessories that the actors clinked together with impressive synchronisation and the dancing on tables perfectly encapsulated the essence of the song. The title song was also executed to perfection—with The X Factor winner Sam Bailey (as Mrs. Potts) sounding so very enchantingly like the original Mrs. Potts (Dame Angela Lansbury DBE, who narrated the prologue of the stage show) from the film in her rendition of the song.
The musical also includes some original songs, my favourite of which was ‘Home’, sang by Belle after she takes her father’s place as the Beast’s prisoner. Stapleton’s performance of this number was so very powerful—the unbridled emotion she brings to the song, along with her astounding voice, made it nothing less than memorable.
The sets themselves were also incredible, and transported us to a diverse array of locations, from Belle’s village to the many different rooms of Beast’s castle. Everything from the stage pieces and backdrops to the animated segments were simply exquisite and flowed seamlessly into place as we transitioned from one scene to the next. Indeed, we were moved from one location in the story to another with a grace that is a testament to the amazing skill and work of the production team as well as the lighting and sound crew.
But of course, the show could not have come to life in the way that it did if it hadn’t been for the sheer talent of the cast. Courtney Stapleton was an amazing presence on stage and had me spellbound by the special energy she brought to Belle, as well as by the beauty and clarity of her voice. Shaq Taylor also had a great voice and, despite a sometimes stiff line-delivery, was able to play the Beast with all the energy required by a role that was very centred on physical demonstrations.
Gavin Lee was absolutely amazing as Lumiere, embodying the humour and flamboyance of the character in a way that left the audience laughing after almost every line. I was also impressed by his ability to hold Lumiere’s exaggerated posture and his arms at 90-degree angles for the entirety of the show! It is no surprise that he is a 2 x Tony and an Olivier nominee – as well as a 2 x Drama Desk Award winner!
Nigel Richards was a natural as jumpy and nervous Cogsworth; Sam Bailey was such a sweet Mrs. Potts—magnificent with Rojae Simpson, who was absolutely adorable as Chip; and Emma Caffrey (as Babette) and Samantha Bingley (as Madame) added lovely dynamism to the interactions amongst the Beast’s servants.
Tom Senior (and his biceps) brought all the cocky energy one would expect from Gaston to the stage, and, opposite him, Liam Buckland was a very dynamic LeFou—fully committing himself to the awkwardness of the character and ending up on the ground more often than not!
Finally, I was so very impressed with the skill of the ensemble, who carried out lively choreographies and impressive costume changes seamlessly throughout the entire show. They brought the scenes to life and watching them was at times as enthralling as watching the main cast. They deserve such a loud shout-out for giving the show a definite ‘je ne sais quoi’.
All in all, the musical was one of the most beautiful productions I have ever seen, reflecting the pure talent and passion that went into putting it on. This is definitely a must-see show!
Beauty and the Beast plays at Manchester’s Palace Theatre from 31st March until 4th June, before continuing its UK tour until January 2023.
Powered By Spotlight Studios
0161 275 2930 University of Manchester’s Students’ Union, Oxford Rd, Manchester M13 9PR