Disney has, for many years, been synonymous with quality family entertainment with works dating way back into the early part of the twentieth century which have woven themselves into the hearts and minds of children creating classics loved by successive generations. In recent years many of those works have found themselves translated to stage versions proving themselves a further cash cow for Mickey. Some may say this is just cynical cash-in exploiting previous works, but, oh, no, not I.
It’s nearly thirty years since Disney’s renaissance with Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King brought the eye of the world back to their work and proved even sans Walt this company was going places! The theatrical wing of the business has proved itself time and again where Disney’s heart really is, and it is no less true than in this recent stage incarnation of the tale as old as time. What a surprise and joy to hear the voice of the original Mrs Potts herself, Angela Lansbury, as the narrator giving it a complete Disney seal of approval. Grace Swaby-More was born to play Belle and does so with elegance and charm countered by Shaq Taylor’s beast who’s roar shatters the flies and (without giving too much away) reveals himself as the most handsome of handsome princes. Sam Bailey’s Mrs Potts can never top Dame Angela’s but she gives her a good run for her money – and the title number brings a tear of joy. Gaston (Tom Senior) flexes strapping muscles, Cogsworth (Nigel Richards) presents a fully rounded character and Maurice (Martin Ball) is an endearing creation but it is Gavin Lee as Lumiere who provides the vital spark of fun, joy and illumination with a performance of such controlled delight that every slight movement and mild grin lights up the audience giving us an irresistible iridescent glow.
But in the end, it’s the music which wins our hearts. The show’s title song must one of the most profoundly beautiful ever written for a film and bears countless repetitions. Couple that with a vast array of upbeat and joyous numbers such as “Be Our Guest” and “Gaston” and you have a perfect and joyous family night out without a hair, a flame or a clock hand out of place.
Where lesser productions may simply trade on the audience’s knowledge of the original this one embellishes and enhances and provides many new tricks and surprises and in the end provides joyous and vibrant of great theatre which, unsurprisingly, earns a well-deserved standing ovation.
Beauty and the Beast continues until the 26th March, full details and tickets can be found at https://www.beautyandthebeastmusical.co.uk/
Reviewer: Peter Kinnock
Reviewed: 9th March 2022
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★★