FeaturedMusicalNorth WestReview

Beauty and the Beast – Liverpool Empire

Reviewer: John McRoberts

Music: Alan Menkin

Lyrics: Howard Ashman & Tim Rice

Book: Linda Woolverton

Director: Matt West

Originally receiving its debut on Broadway 26 years ago, Alan Menkin, Howard Ashman and Tim Rice’s musical adaptation of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast receives a brand-new re-imagined staging for this new UK Tour.

Matt West’s enchanting production oozes Disney magic from every pore. Stanley A Meyer’s stunning new set design magically blends video projection and physical set design beautifully, bringing a nod to the animated original with a gothic modern twist that’s full of hidden secrets and magical moments.

In the titular role which is usually played by Courtney Stapleton, sees an opening night change where understudy Grace Swaby takes the helm. Swaby makes a divine princess and while it’s clear from the start that nerves are taking their toll, she settles into the role beautifully. Swaby balances the traditional with the modern extremely well. Not only showcasing excellent vocals but also finds enough strength and independence to make the choices Belle encounters all the more truthful. As the Beast, Emmanuel Kojo has a gravitas and presence that not only makes his Beast at times incredibly menacing but also extremely vulnerable and touching – his rendition of ‘If I Can’t Love Her’ being a simple but beautiful moment in the show.

The production relies on two very strong double acts, and the casting of both are sublime; firstly, Tom Senior as Gaston and Louis Stockwell as the buffoonish Le Fou are perfectly matched, their energy bounds across the stage with care-free abandon which is allowed to delight and shine during the musical number ‘Gaston’. The second duo of the show Cogsworth (Nigel Richards) and Lumiere (Gavin Lee) are a real highlight, Richards’ stiff upper lip and tick-tocking of Cogsworth brings plenty to laugh at while Lee’s Lumiere is electric. Lee’s big musical number ‘Be Our Guest’ is a show-stopper with Busby Burkley inspired choreography which is a pure homage to the Golden Age of musical theatre being one of the best musical set-pieces seen on stage in years. Strong support also comes from Sam Bailey as Mrs Potts and Martin Ball in the madcap Maurice.

This re-imagined production is a delight from start to finish. Hearing Menkin & Ashman’s songs sung live is always a magical experience, but here they soar to new heights, with new interpretations and nuances that make the material seem as fresh as it did over 25 years ago. With a superb cast and a stunning new set/lighting design, makes this a magical experience for young and old alike and ensures that the tale of Beauty and the Beast continues to wow for years to come!

Runs until 16 October 2021 – and continues on its UK Tour

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The North West team is under the editorship of John McRoberts. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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