Hannah Morley tells of her nostalgic experience of Disney’s classic tale.
There is something about Beauty and the Beast that is utterly enchanting. It is a childhood favourite that has continued to forever fascinate me. I was lucky enough to see the show during its last run in London, 1999. I went with my mum, and it made me fall madly in love with musical theatre; a form I have loved ever since.
This new version of Beauty and the Beast for the stage has been brought to life by director Matt West. The casting of the main roles of Belle and the Beast have been filled by Courtney Stapleton and Emmanuel Kojo respectively, both distinguished actors. While these roles are traditionally played by white actors, this production has not been afraid to bring more racial diversity into the characters. Unfortunately, I never got to see the talents of Emmanuel Kojo as he was replaced by his equally brilliant understudy, Alyn Hawke for the matinee performance on the 13 November at the Edinburgh Playhouse.
"While these roles are traditionally played by white actors, this production has not been afraid to bring more racial diversity into the characters."
Now, we all know the story. A prince is cursed to live as a beast due to his selfishness and the servants are turned into walking, talking household appliances. The sorceress who did this gives the beast an enchanted rose, needing someone to fall in love with him before the last petal falls - the only way to break the curse and allow him to return to normal.
I was very excited to see Beauty and the Beast on the stage again. Though it is a new version with its narrative tailored for this decade, there are nods to the animated movie from 1991. The most obvious is the voice of the prologue narrator, Angela Lansbury, who played Mrs Potts in the animated film. During the performance, an image of Gaston from the animation makes an appearance and, for more eagle-eyed viewers, an image of Sebastian from The Little Mermaid pops up. It’s perfect for people who like spotting references to other movies, drawing together cinema and its theatrical adaptation.
"It’s perfect for people who like spotting references to other movies, drawing together cinema and its theatrical adaptation..."
Overall, the production value was superb, and it was a very enjoyable experience, however, I do have some small grievances. Gaston is one of my favourite characters, but I feel that Tom Senior, who portrayed said part, though a decent actor, didn’t have the voice projection needed for such a role. His performance of the “Gaston” song fell a little flat, as the orchestra overpowered his voice. Alongside this, a scene well remembered from the movie was completely missed out in this production. While the beast and Gaston fight at the end, the battle between the servants of the castle and the villagers was omitted. It’s a small thing, but I have always enjoyed watching the witless villagers get beaten up by walking, talking household appliances - a comedic and personal highlight I take from the film.
A special mention does have to be given to Gavin Lee. His performance as Lumiere is outstanding. He encapsulates the flamboyant nature of the character brilliantly, shining through “Be Our Guest” as he bursts on stage with flashy lights and an over the top dance sequence.
Although there are a couple of disappointments, Beauty and the Beast is still worth the visit. The songs stay with you long after the performance, with their catchy lyrics and exciting tunes.
Disney’s Beauty and the Beast is no longer running at the Edinburgh Playhouse, however the musical is returning to tour in 2022 in Cardiff, Sunderland, Birmingham and Manchester.
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