Beauty and the Beast: The Musical
Bord Gáis Energy Theatre
In the opening scene-setting moments of Beauty and the Beast: The Musical, the warm rich voice of the late Angela Lansbury fills the theatre, a welcome tribute to the animated origins of this musical from Disney Theatrical, in which Lansbury starred. Composer Alan Menken enhances his original score with several new songs with lyrics by Tim Rice. However, it is the original collaborative numbers with the late Howard Ashman, from the 1991 film, that stand out in this visually spectacular production from director and choreographer Matt West.
The Perrault-inspired plot is, indeed, a tale as old as time. A young woman, Belle (Courtney Stapleton), is imprisoned by a prince in monstrous form (Shaq Taylor). However, love blossoms against the backdrop of ancient and more modern curses, namely, the evil plotting of the burly and brawny Gaston (played by Tom Senior, “with biceps to spare”). An ensemble of enchanted furniture led by animated candlestick Lumiere (Alyn Hawke) and cranky clock Cogsworth (Nigel Richards) adds comedy to the narrative throughline of danger and romance.
And yet the telling here seems more vital than the tale. Ann Hould-Ward’s costumes are a confection of decadent flowery frills and ingenious disguises, with special mention for the insistent theatricality of the costumes for Mrs Potts (Sam Bailey) and her fellow-furnishings. Set designer Stanley A Meyer, meanwhile, combines cartoonish physical set pieces with projected layers that makes the characters’ transformations magical and the magic at play in the story feel real (illusion designer Jim Steinmeyer deserves mention here too.)
It is West’s choreography that offers the most memorable scenes. In the extended ensemble numbers, in particular, Be Our Guest, West puts the dancers’ service to the test with routines that blend acrobatic and percussive skill with cabaret chorus-line flair. Against receding circular frames, lit by Natasha Katz, the song and dance routine, led by Hawke’s Lumiere, will be seared into the imagination of viewers young and old for years to come.
Runs at the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre, Dublin, until January 8th