Beauty and the Beast: The Musical review – old-fashioned pleasures and irresistible set-pieces

·2-min read

This is a show of set pieces. It starts in storybook mode, all earthy hues and bucolic backdrops, bearing the influence of panto as much as the Disney animation that inspired it. The two-dimensional set by Stanley A Meyer and the mix-and-match costumes by Ann Hould-Ward are knowingly old-fashioned, while the chorus takes on a supporting role as tradition dictates, accompanying Courtney Stapleton’s no-nonsense Belle as she grumbles about her provincial town. Every joke is underlined, no grimace is too unsubtle.

But then, Martin Ball, as Belle’s dad Maurice, wanders into the woods and things get creepy. Out goes the sepia, in comes gothic monochrome, as wolves appear from every direction and the old man is cornered by the Beast. Played by Alyn Hawke (standing in for Emmanuel Kojo), the creature is more hairy than hair-raising. He is bad-tempered rather than terrifying, although by showing his softer side he helps make sense of the romance to come.

The show comes into its own in two act-one numbers, both extraneous to the plot and both irresistibly full of life. The first, in this spruced-up production staged by Matt West, is that paradoxical thing, a communal song about one man’s ego, as the full company run riot in a tavern in celebration of Tom Senior’s Gaston. The show is less hung up on masculinity than the animated original, but the actor, with his tight trousers and bulging biceps, conveys plenty of preening self-regard, leading the cast in a song that could have come from Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.

The real highlight, though, comes with Be Our Guest, in which the castle’s crockery, led by Sam Bailey’s jolly Mrs Potts, ravish Belle with a spectacular feast of ice-cream colours, can-can dancing and Busby Berkeley-inspired projections. With its hearts and lights and Eiffel Tower imagery, it is as lurid as it is irresistible.

After that sugar rush, the second half lets the story do the work. Stapleton, comfortable being bookish or glamorous, demonstrates an effortless, heart-stopping range in A Change in Me and owns the show with her quiet authority.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting