Reviewed by Christine Peace
Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Revamped and re-designed, Disney’s Award-winning production of Beauty and the Beast has arrived in Manchester for a 10-week residency at the Palace Theatre ahead of a West End run this summer.
This stunning production bursts with Disney magic right from the start as Angela Lansbury’s voice fills the theatre, introducing us to this much-loved story, while slick new design blends impressive video projection with traditional set design; allowing for dramatic scene changes and magical moments throughout.
Courtney Stapleton is superb as Belle, strong and independent yet full of heart she brings a genuine warmth and believability to the role while her vocals are pitch perfect. Also, a big fat YES to Belle wearing glasses during several scenes in the show, an unforgettable moment for many glasses wearing little (and big) ones in the audience.
As the Beast, Shaq Taylor is perfection; his rich vocals are sublime with his heartfelt performance of ‘If I Can’t Love Her’ being one of the most beautiful moments in the show. He mesmerises as the Beast, intimidating one moment, vulnerable the next, his physicality entirely convincing while he gifts us with an endearing humour that only makes us root for him even more.
Stapleton and Taylor make for fabulous sparring partners, it’s a joy watching their relationship develop as the Beast morphs from menacing to mush while Belle realises it’s truly what’s inside that really counts.
As well as the classic love story this production is filled with wonderfully comedic moments; Tom Senior as Gaston and Liam Buckland as Le Fou are hilarious; they bound across the stage all beer guzzling and boisterous as they belt out a brilliant ‘Gaston’ complete with fabulous physical comedy, carefully choreographed acrobatics, and seriously impressive staging, much to the delight of the audience.
Nigel Richards as Cogsworth and Gavin Lee as Lumiere make for another perfect pairing as the stuffy and serious Cogsworth’s blustering reaches fever-pitch while Lee’s Lumiere takes it all in his fabulously stylish stride. Lee absolutely shines during his big-number, the show-stopping ‘Be Our Guest’ giving us pure Hollywood razzle-dazzle, tap-heaven, it is truly sensational!
Special mention must also go to Sam Bailey as the utterly charming Mrs Potts, Samantha Bingley as the brilliant Madame de la Grande Bouche and Emma Caffrey as the super flirtatious Babette.
Director & choreographer Matt West has tasked his company with some incredible set-pieces which the ensemble delivers with both style and ease, the talent on stage is immense and it’s easy to see why this production receives a standing ovation night after night.
While this might be a ‘tale as old as time’ this refreshed production feels both modern and magical; taking in all the best elements from the original animated classic, the 1994 Broadway production and the 2017 live-action film adaptation, creating an enchanting production that remains true to its source material and showers the audience with Disney magic. This family show has it all, with the gasps from the audience when Belle enters for the ballroom scene making for an unforgettable moment. At a time where we all need a little escapism, being a guest at Beauty and the Beast will leave you uplifted, entertained and desperate to book a return visit. Theatrical magic at its absolute finest!
Disney’s Beauty and the Beast is on at Manchester’s palace Theatre until Saturday 4th June tickets available here.