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  • Writer's pictureFrances

Disney's Beauty and the Beast the Musical Review | Palace Theatre | Manchester

Beauty and the Beast is the perfect Disney production, awash with dreamy set pieces, fabulous frocks and passionate performances. This big-budget show brings the spirit of its 1991 Oscar-winning animation to the Palace theatre stage, with its live incarnation encapsulating the best of what musical theatre has to offer.

We follow our nameless prince (Shaq Taylor) who quickly comes under fire for turning away a homeless witch (in the rain no less), causing a unique curse to be placed on him and his staff. Having repurposed his hired hands into beautiful household objects, the socially conscious witch chooses to transform the prince into a beast who must find true love in order to break the spell.

Of course, the witch has added a rose clock time constraint for finding true love and the prince's castle is surrounded by wolves, making his mission extremely difficult. However, with Taylor and Courtney Stapleton (Belle) at the helm of the enigmatic ensemble, the classic is once again unearthed on stage for a magnificent reincarnation. Matt West’s direction moves the beloved hand-drawn characters into an immersive live production that involves several spinning (and dancing) plates.

Alongside its irresistible soundtrack, the enormous sets swiftly drop on and off the stage to recreate the towering castle and project the surrounding woods. With a painted backdrop of Belle’s French fields alongside the multi-coloured costumed villagers and playful singing appliances, the production is a monumental musical triumph.

The light-hearted story by Linda Woolverton offers a surreal and sparkling tale with plenty to love. While its updated visuals are reassuringly full of old-school magic, the beast’s technical aspects and the show's sets are a marvel to behold. Taylor is given makeup subtle enough to allow you to read his expressions from your seat but detailed enough for you to appreciate the sacrifice of him performing 90% of the show through prosthetics and a mask of hair. The character's costumes have no expense spared with Belle’s unforgettable golden ballgown recreated by many of the younger, enthusiastic audience members.

Unlike its 2017 live-action Emma Watson led retelling, this stage adaption incorporates additional songs for its ensemble cast. The song, Human Again offers an unexpected space for the talented team of servants to deliver an understated performance of their vocal talent within the Disney fairy tale. Whilst brimming with energy and excitement, the show offers a wealth of classic tracks, backed by its live orchestra. The lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice build on the electrifying direction that drives the dramady with creative flair and an animated sense of humour and style.

The enchanted evening offers triumphant performances of the title’s song, Gaston and the irresistibly catchy Be Our Guest led by the marvellous Gavin Lee (Lumiere). Building on the fan favourites, the production adds moments for the audience to appreciate the live orchestra and fabulous choreography. Making use of the Palace Theatre stage, West places a camera above the action, angled to view the ensemble deliver synchronised choreography on the floor.

With the spellbinding spectacle of 4D figures flying around the Palace stage, Beauty and the Beast is an embarrassment of riches. Disney’s masterful musical is rooted by its unforgettable soundtrack, and this flamboyant production definitely meets the high expectations of its animated features visuals. Any Disney fan will be thrilled to relive the magic of this musical.

Tickets are available via the ATG link


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