We were obsessed with it as children: Belle encouraged us to read, sing all hours of the day, *and* steer clear of male chauvinists. Now, Beauty and the Beast is back and we’re falling in love with the tale as old as time, once again!
As the show began, we were encased by the warm and familiar voice of the wonderful Angela Lansbury, who voiced ‘Mrs Potts’ in the original 1991 movie. Like the movies, the show opens with a gothic montage of how the beast came to be, posing the question, ‘who could ever learn to love a beast?’. The countryside backdrop and poor provincial town immediately transport you to 18th century rural France where the chorus come together, weaving around one another with ‘Bonjours’ a-plenty.
Things take a sinister turn as Belle bids farewell to her father and he gets lost in the woods, having a close encounter with treacherous wolves. The clever use of CGI and digital screens really captures the overwrought chase which brings Maurice to the mighty doors of the gothic castle.
A real highpoint in the show is, of course, the Be Our Guest sequence, which pours enough life and ecstasy into kitchen crockery to put both Wedgewood and Emma Bridgewater to shame! The psychedelic staging and lighting rival the films and is one of the best sequences I’ve experienced in musical theatre – tap-dancing always has the power to stimulate even the most dejected of theatre-goers!
It has to be said, the only thing bigger than Be Our Guest was Gaston’s biceps! Tom Senior does a fantastic portrayal of the handsome rogue and the panto camaraderie between him and Le Fou (Louis Stockil) bought out high pitched giggles from young audience members.
Grace Swaby-Moore – the understudy to Courtney Stapleton – did an incredible job as Belle, personifying the innocence of the character but came through to belt out the ballads of the show. X-Factor winner, Sam Bailey, was born to be Mrs Potts. Her embodiment of the much-loved mother figure bought tears to my eyes when she sang ‘Beauty and the Beast’.