Guest Rose Reviewer was back in London to catch the magical productions of Beauty and the Beast:
Not to exaggerate massively, but I almost died of excitement when they announced Beauty and the
Beast the Musical was coming to the London Palladium. Missing it was not an option. So, I enlisted
some of my oldest and dearest friends (we grew up watching the movie together) and made sure we
got our tickets early. As in first week early.
I’m sure I don’t need to spend too long explaining the story to anyone. Belle, an intelligent, beautiful
young woman is stuck in a quaint French village where her thirst for knowledge is considered ‘odd’.
The Beast, a Prince cursed for his arrogance and unkindness, is running out of time to find true love
and break the spell that has turned the inhabitants of his castle into household objects. By chance,
they are brought together when Belle’s father stumbles upon the castle while lost in the woods.
Against all odds, they learn to love one another, and the spell is broken.
As the date grew closer, I re-watched both the original animation and the live action film versions
(thank you Disney+!) to brush up on my lyrics and remind myself why it is such a classic. I was well
prepared. Not that the cast knew or cared, but there was a lot riding on this performance for me –
this is one of my all-time favourite Disney films.
In a stroke of genius, Dame Angela Lansbury was brought in to record the Narrator’s opening to the
show. For me, it was the perfect way to start things off, and almost identical to the start of the
original film. It created an air of nostalgia instantly.
Enter Belle, who I was particularly pleased to learn is played by Courtney Stapleton, born in my
hometown of Gravesend. I’m happy to say she represented exceptionally well for our shared
birthplace, singing and dancing flawlessly throughout. As an added bonus to her obvious skill, she
looked beautiful in Belle’s iconic yellow ball gown, giving the audience an audible ‘wow’ moment. If
anyone knows where to get an exact replica of that dress, please get in touch!
Our other lead for the evening was Shaq Taylor as the Beast, and wow, what a voice. This was best
showcased in his poignant performance of the song right before the interval, If I Can’t Love Her. Like
many of the Disney musicals there are additional songs that aren’t in the films, and in this one I was
glad for it, as I don’t think we would have got a proper feel for how much of a powerhouse Shaq is
without this number.
The other stars for me were Gavin Lee as Lumière and Nigel Richards as Cogsworth. The rapport and
chemistry between them was hysterical, even funnier than in the film. They were well supported by
Sam Bailey as Mrs. Potts and Samantha Bingley as Madame (the wardrobe); all four together gave
rousing renditions of Be Our Guest (we will come back to this later) and Human Again.
Not to be forgotten, Tom Senior made an excellent Gaston. I will leave it to him to decide if that is a
compliment! He brought the right combination of sleazy and arrogant to the role, delivering a
punchy version of Gaston in the tavern scene alongside Louis Stockil, who played Le Fou.
What can be said about Be Our Guest? It was a complete spectacle – really exhibiting the skills of the
wider cast – by far the best number in the entire show. Everyone in the ensemble brought their A-
game, the costumes were fantastic, and the tap dancing was perfectly timed. It elicited a roaring
round of applause from the audience, very well-deserved.
The set was very true to the animated film, with quaint little cottages for the village and looming
baroque features for the enchanted castle. As Cogsworth says, if it’s not baroque, don’t fix it! These
sets were enhanced by the use of projection screens, which were particularly effective at creating a
tunnel of lights during Be Our Guest.
Ann Hould-Ward deserves a mention for her costume design, which not only brought to life the
household object characters, but also turned Shaq Taylor into a convincing beast that could then
transform within a matter of seconds in the final scene. A combination of costume and special
effects were used particularly impressively for Chip, this evening played by the adorable Zarian
Marcel Obtarhe, and I’m still waiting for someone to explain to me where his legs are…
The orchestra, conducted by Jonathan Gill, brought the soundtrack to life beautifully. I don’t think
anyone could have asked for more from them.
If I had to find fault, and believe me it is very hard to, I’d say that I thought The Mob Song could’ve
had a bit more ‘oomph’ behind it, but that is personal preference as it’s one of my favourites. For me
it didn’t quite convey the frenzied fear and senseless anger that is synonymous with mob mentality.
The only other thing to note is there is some very beautiful, and very pricey, merchandise available
at the theatre. I would have loved to buy some bits, but at £45 for a fleece blanket I decided to pass!
These final notes should not take away from what was a truly stunning musical. The cast and
creative team behind them have really outdone themselves, and I wouldn’t hesitate to go back
again. And probably again after that.
Beauty and the Beast the Musical is on tour, which means it’s only at the London Palladium until
mid-September, before it moves to Bristol and then Dublin. Tickets and tour dates can be found
here. I urge you not to miss it!