CentralMusicalReview

Disney’s Beauty and the Beast – The Birmingham Hippodrome

Reviewer: James Garrington

Book: Linda Woolverton

Music: Alan Menken

Lyrics: Howard Ashman & Tim Rice

Director: Matt West

In these uncertain times, we are reminded of the importance of the arts to give people a little breathing space among the worry and upset. It’s at moments like this that an uplifting piece of theatre comes into its own – and if you want something with a happy ending that provides pure escapism, you can rely on a Disney version of a fairy tale to do the job.

Beauty and the Beast is, by any standards, spectacular, with production values to die for. The design by Stanley A Meyer allows this fast-moving show to flow seamlessly using a combination of trucked units and video, all working effortlessly with Natasha Katz’s lighting design to transport the audience to the village, the spooky and scary woods, the different parts of the beast’s castle. It’s heady stuff that cannot fail to impress even the most sceptical theatregoer. Then there’s the costumes – the bright and colourful villagers, the characters in the castle and the Beast, all elegantly interpreted from the original Disney movie by Ann Hould-Ward. As is often the case, there’s some extra numbers that have been introduced for the stage version, which help with the character development and create a more rounded and deeper piece than the original cartoon and make it more suitable as a piece of theatre.

There can be few people who don’t know the story and know it well – the handsome prince who is transformed into a beast and doomed to stay that way forever unless he can win someone’s love. Here we have Shaq Taylor as the Beast, giving us a combination of flaring temper combined with despair and some well-judged moments of tenderness. He doesn’t get much to sing, but he makes the most of his big number If I Can’t Love Her which closes the first half of the show. It’s a fine contrast to the preceding Be Our Guest, the glitzy and glamorous song and dance number which has become a well-loved classic and showcases Matt West’s fizzing choreography brilliantly, brought to the UK stage by associate director and choreographer Nick Winston.

Opposite Taylor is Grace Swaby-Moore, on at this performance as Belle. Swaby-Moore makes the most of her opportunity to demonstrate her talents, stepping up confidently into the iconic role. With a great voice and good dance skills, she gives us a classic interpretation of the young girl who’s perceived as odd but has a heart of gold. Her version of A Change in Me, one of the new numbers, is beautifully delivered and a nice contrast to some of the other songs in the show. She’s definitely a name to look out for in future.

A host of other names provide great support. Gavin Lee’s suave and sophisticated Lumiere combines well with Nigel Richards as his pompous companion Cogsworth. Sam Bailey is an endearing and maternal Mrs Potts and Tom Senior is an instantly-recognisable Gaston, delivering their roles exactly as you’d want to see them, with Louis Stockil as a tumbling, bumbling LeFou. The characterisation and attention to detail on display is remarkable, with humour being found throughout. Supporting it all is a strong ensemble, with movement that would rival many a dance company.

There’s glitz and glamour, there’s catchy music and there’s laughs aplenty in this memorable version of the classic fairy tale. It is spectacular.

Runs until 26 March and on tour

The Reviews Hub Score

Spectacular

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The Reviews Hub - Central

The Central team is under the editorship of Selwyn Knight. 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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