Beauty and the Beast
The Capitol Theatre, Haymarket, Sydney
The Beauty and The Beast story:
Walt Disney himself had the idea of this story as an animated feature, but it didn’t come to fruition until 1990. It was such a success that it is one of only three animated features ever nominated for the Best Picture Academy Award – along with Up and Toy Story 3. After its success, a new division of Disney was born, Disney Theatrical Productions, and the first project was a stage adaptation of Beauty and the Beast. It opened in 1994 at the Palace Theatre on Broadway. It was a huge success, with nine Tony Award nominations, and went on to run for 13 years. A new live-action version of Beauty and the Beast was released in 2017, becoming the highest-grossing live-action musical film of all time. And now we have this new stage musical version, which might be a ‘tale as old as time’, but has all the modern bells and whistles, and a healthy sprinkling of Disney’s magical fairy dust.
It starts with the dulcet tones of the late, great Angela Lansbury, who narrates the introduction to the story of how a spoilt prince became The Beast – a transformation that happens in front of your eyes and leaves you wondering how on earth they did it. I love that the original creative team are behind this production, and I love the electrifying energy the cast have. I couldn’t help but think just how much physical, vocal and dance training they would have had to do to nail the demanding numbers. Just wow.
It is also quite transformational, the DNA running through this story, that the two leads are virtual newcomers. Belle is played by Shubshri Kandiah, and Beast is Brendan Xavier. Kandiah has the voice of an angel, and radiates the quiet strength that our Belle has to be who she wants to be. She reads, she wears glasses, and she sees through the vacuous, he-man, chest-thumping neanderthal that is Gaston (played brilliantly by Jackson Head). In fact, the Gaston number is one of my favourites, with phenomenal choreography. Gaston, Le Fou and the superb ensemble clink mugs a jaw-dropping 821 times during this number, while leaping, dancing, singing and not missing a beat. The applause was loooooong, and only surpassed by the standing ovation for the wonderful Be My Guest which is outrageously big, beautiful, colourful and did I say big? Think HUGE! Just as well interval came shortly afterwards because I needed a rest. It is exhausting watching all that action!
The second half brought all the feels, laughter, sadness and happy tears – and not just from me but from everyone around me. The transformation of The Beast (beautifully played by Brendan Xavier), from a very cranky and rude man to a thoughtful, caring and book-loving prince is handled well. The supporting household implements brought the comedy, the oohs and the aahs, with Lumiere, Cogsworth, Mrs Potts, Babette and Madame almost stealing the show. And Chip of course. The ethereal number, Beauty and the Beast, is delivered with aplomb and emotion by Mrs Potts (Jayde Westaby). For some reason, my eyes don’t stop leaking.
What I loved:
All of it. The set is fabulous. The lighting and effects are out of this world – I still can’t work out how the prince transformed into the Beast at the beginning, or how he changed back at the end. The crispness of every number is astounding, the choreography just blew me away, and the voices of every cast member blended in perfect harmony. Then there are the costumes – Belle’s shimmery, sparkly ball gown was mesmerising and got its own round of applause – and no wonder. It was based on Elizabeth 11’s coronation dress, and each petal has around 300-600 crystals, pearls and beads. I also have to give a nod to Cogsworth’s clock and Madame’s drawers – these costumes are quite brilliant.
It all is. Just get a ticket!
Beauty and the Beast is on at the Capitol Theatre in Sydney with tickets on sale until 5 November, 2023. The show runs around 2.5 hours with one 20-minute interval. Get your tickets HERE.