‘Beauty and the Beast’ (Edinburgh Playhouse) | Review By Lewis C. Baird

Disney has returned to the Edinburgh Playhouse until 27th November with the tale as old as time, ‘Beauty and the Beast the Musical’. This iconic Disney story follows an arrogant young prince, and his castle’s servants after they fall under the spell of a wicked enchantress, who turns the prince into a hideous Beast until he learns to love and be loved in return. The spirited, headstrong village girl Belle enters the Beast’s castle after he imprisons her father, Maurice. With the help of the prince’s enchanted servants, Belle begins to turn the cold-hearted Beast into a gentleman. 

Courtney Stapleton stars in this production as Belle. Courtney’s portrayal of Belle is more headstrong and passionate than we have seen the character in the two hugely successful motion pictures. Vocally this is an unbelievable performance from Stapleton, particularly her powerful, emotional and showstopping performance of ‘A Change in Me’. Around the auditorium young girls (and some fully grown women) dressed as Belle were entranced and inspired by Courtney’s performance. This truly is a great re-envisioning of the character, and a superb performance from this young actress. 

Alyn Hawke is outstanding as The Beast. Hawke’s booming voice instantly prompts shivers around the auditorium. Hawke also captures The Beast’s journey perfectly, turning from a deeply angered beast into a true prince. A highlight of Hawke’s performance is the act one finale ‘If I Can’t Love Her’, this is a truly emotional and heartbreaking ballad. Alyn’s performance of The Beast brings the infamous character to life yet there is more humanity and reason present, this is a fantastic performance. 

Gavin Lee is utterly magnificent as Lumiere. The flirtatious French candelabra is one of the most iconic Disney characters of all time and Gavin does not disappoint in bringing this character to life. Lee’s physicality energizes Lumiere’s enchantment restrictions and radiates sheer comedy gold (literally). Gavin also leads most likely one of the best musical numbers ever to grace the stage of the Edinburgh Playhouse. ‘Be Our Guest’ is simply stunning and Gavin leads the number with the ensemble, featuring tremendous vocals and utterly jaw dropping delivery of complex choreography. This number alone was met with rapturous applause (the loudest I’ve heard in a long time), and even some standing ovations. Gavin Lee is one of the most talented men in the musical theatre industry, not only in the UK but internationally and his portrayal of Lumiere shows his flawless talent. Gavin Lee’s Lumiere is undoubtedly a highlight of the production. 

Tom Senior brings the vein and VERY muscular Gaston to life brilliantly. Senior’s energetic stage presence, dashingly handsome looks, tremendous dance skill and resounding vocals, pull together a marvellous performance. A highlight is Senior leading ‘The Mob Song’, this is a great ensemble number, with Gaston almost looking identical to how he did in the cartoon motion picture.  

Sam Bailey is delightful as Mrs Potts. Bailey is known for winning the ‘X Factor’ back in 2013, her vocal skills are of course stunning, however, what is very surprising is how Bailey has adapted her vocals for Mrs Potts, and the results are simply sublime. Especially during the title number ‘Beauty and the Beast’, the audience go wild for this magical rendition, performed flawlessly by Bailey. Sam’s acting talents are also very impressive, bringing the cuddly warmth and light humour associated with this character. Sam Bailey as Mrs Potts is champagne casting, Sam embodies this renowned character and delights audiences of all ages. 

Nigel Richards as Cogsworth fantastically captures the cookie, frantic and old-fashioned clock in all of his glory. Richards’ comedic timing is impeccable delivering some of the funniest physical and dialogue humour in the production perfectly.  Richards’ on-stage dynamic with other characters really compliments his performance, especially with Lee’s Lumiere. This is a hysterically funny and engaging performance from Richards. 

Martin Ball features as Belle’s father, Maurice. The wacky and nervous Maurice is portrayed with superb energy and emotion from Ball, this is a fun supporting performance. Samantha Bingley as Madame and Emma Caffrey as Babette are also two great supporting performances, embracing the comedy and magic within this production. 

Louis Stockil as Le Fou radiates energy, comedy, silliness and at points villainy. Stockil’s performance in ‘Gaston’ is unbelievable, keeping up with the complex choreography while also delivering great vocals singing the number. This is a fun performance that especially resonates with younger audience members. 

Joshua Smith also stars as Chip in this production. The glee and sheer excitement shown from this young performer is heartwarming to watch, especially in the transformation scene, cheers and maybe even tears are heard/seen from audience members. 

Angela Lansbury is also present within this rejuvenated production of ‘Beauty of the Beast’. Lansbury’s warm and familiar voice narrates the prologue. This is a nice touch to see Lansbury return to the story which introduced her to a new generation in the 90s. 

The ensemble for this production are incredible, they are all immensely talented, showcasing flawless vocals and unreal dance skill. The ensembles are as follows; Jake Bishop, Pamela Blair, Liam Buckland, Jasmine Davis, Matthew Dawkins, Autumn Draper, Daisy Edwards (swing), George Hinson, Jennifer Louise Jones, Brontë Lavine (swing/assistance dance captain), Thomas-Lee Kidd (Monsieur D’Arque), David McIntosh (swing/dance captain), Aimee Moore, Sam Murphy, Ashley-Jordon Packer (swing), Emily Squibb (swing), Grace Swaby (Standby Belle), India Thornton and Rhys West (swing/fight captain). 

Alan Menken’s music, with Howard Ashman and Tim Rice’s lyrics have never sounded better with Jonathan Gill’s musical direction. Gill’s adaption of the score is cinematic and utterly stunning. Linda Woolverton’s book does well to capture this much-loved Disney motion picture for stage. Woolverton’s book replicates some scenes but also adds to the narrative and brings even more depth. Matt West’s direction and choreography of ‘Beauty and the Beast’ fully utilizes the text, bringing beautiful nuances in scenes between Belle’s bright old-fashioned town and The Beast’s dark castle. Also providing mesmerizing dance sequences such as ‘Be Our Guest’, ‘Human Again’ and ‘Gaston’. Stanley A. Meyer’s scenic design perfectly depicts the delightful and at points dark world of ‘Beauty and the Beast’. The Castle’s physical set design alone is staggering, however when merged with Darrel Maloney’s very impressive video/production design, Jim Steinmeyer’s immersive illusions, Ann Hould-Ward’s stunning costume design and Natasha Katz dazzling lighting design, it turns into one of the biggest spectacles in UK touring theatre.  This is the best-looking production that has ever been on the Playhouse stage.  

‘Beauty and the Beast’ may be the tale as old as time, but this production is a contemporary triumph. Re-capturing the Disney magic 30 years after the original film was released. This staggering cast and genius creative team have created a magical musical production. One which you really don’t want to miss. 

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Get your tickets below for the only Scottish date:

https://www.atgtickets.com/shows/disneys-beauty-and-the-beast/edinburgh-playhouse/

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