Growing up with classic Disney films, Beauty and the Beast was always one of my favourites. Like Belle, I loved reading, and was swept away by the magic of it. I honestly didn’t know how the producers of this musical version were going to recreate the amazing original but be assured, die-hard fans will be happy. This production – currently at the Wales Millenium Centre in Cardiff Bay – is stunning.
Given that this is a production with a Disney budget, Beauty and the Beast was always going to be incredible. It’s a perfect Christmas show for the Welsh capital, too, full of enchantment in the performances, sets, iconic musical numbers, and special effects. You can only imagine the amount of work that has gone in to bring it all to life – especially the technical aspects like the lighting and sound wizardry. Many times, I could hear people in the audience asking “How?” and that’s exactly the Disney magic you’d expect.
Even if you’ve seen the show before, prepare to be wowed by this new version. This version reunites the original Broadway creative team of composer Alan Menken and lyricists Howard Ashman and Tim Rice. Courtney Stapleton is Belle, a more headstrong and confident heroine than ever, and she sings beautifully. There were tears aplenty during many tender moments in the show and audible gasps when she appeared in that iconic yellow ballgown. Alyn Hawke – from Bridgend – plays the Beast, and managed to pull off being both a terrifying monster yet also a changing man as he falls in love for the first time. I truly felt his emotions, especially when he lets Belle return to her father, which is hard to do in such elaborate costuming.
Act One featured my personal favourite number, Gaston, an incredible production number with amazing tricks and constant comedy from Louis Stockil as Le Fou and Gaston played by Tom Senior. Gaston stole the show for me, in fact: He looked the part, was effortlessly funny and his comedy with Le Fou was perfectly timed.
The cursed household staff made up the most humourous moments, though, of which there were plenty. Sam Bailey, a past X-Factor winner is Mrs Potts and is perfectly cast as such, giving a gorgeous rendition of the title song Beauty and the Beast. Sam Murphy as Lumiere and Nigel Richards as Cogsworth, meanwhile, made a charismatic double act full of laugh-out-loud moments and were completely charming; a real highlight.
Ensemble number Be Our Guest was an absolute highlight of the show and an absolute show-stopper, full to the brim with choreographed dancing, sparkly costumes, and visually impressive sets reminiscent of Moulin Rouge. And just when you think they can’t possibly do more, Beauty and the Beast goes above and beyond with tap dancing, can-canning, and even a synchronized floor-based routine with feathers.
With all of the animated film’s incredible songs, outlandish choreography and beautifully tender yet funny acting throughout, I’d recommend this show to all ages.
Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff Bay, Tue 14 Dec
words SARAH BOWDIDGE