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  • Writer's pictureAlex First

Disney's Beauty and the Beast, at Her Majesty's Theatre - 2 hours 10 minutes, plus a 20-minute interval

Superlatives hardly do justice to the magnificent staging of one of Disney’s all-time favourites, Beauty and the Beast, which has been revised and enhanced.

 

The striking sets and glorious costuming set the scene for a joyful celebration of song and dance … and the Hollywood ending that everyone wants to see play out.

 

Fast-moving advances in technology have allowed the creative team to seamlessly combine traditional set design with evocative video, with massive impact.

 

And there are magical surprises aplenty, noteworthy in terms of the transition of characters.

Photos by Daniel Boud


That is evident from the get-go, when the self-absorbed prince – spoiled, selfish and unkind – is turned into the beast by a beggar woman he dismisses.

 

The last time Beauty and the Beast played in Melbourne was when it premiered in 1995 and its return – a cavalcade of colour and movement – is most welcome.

 

The story concerns the uppity and arrogant prince, who rides roughshod and on whom a spell is cast, one that can only be broken with true love.

 

While he is cursed, so too are his attendants, who become household objects, holed up in a castle in the forest, surrounded by voracious wolves.

 

Meanwhile, in a small village, the beautiful, bright and spirited Belle, a bookworm, doesn’t fit in. She is considered odd.

 

Nevertheless, she is pursued by the handsome, but boorish Gaston, who believes he is God’s gift. His hubris knows no bounds.

 

He has every eligible woman in town other that Belle wrapped around his little finger, but it is Belle he wants to marry. She couldn’t think of anything worse.

 

Gaston and many in the village consider Belle’s “designer” father Maurice a crazy old loon.

 

When Maurice goes missing in the woods, Belle finds him imprisoned in the Beast’s castle, where he had sort refuge.

 

Selflessly, she agrees to take his place if the Beast frees her father … and the story takes off from there.

The Beast needs to learn to tame his ugly countenance, whereby he bellows at anything that he finds disagreeable … and there is a lot.

 

In time, Belle discovers another side to the monster.

 

This is a grand new stage adaptation of Beauty and the Beast, with a mighty cast assembled for what is a stunning production.

 

The music is by Alan Menken, lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice, from a book by Linda Woolverton.

 

With crystal clear vocal clarity and acuity, Shubshri Kandiah brings a beautiful tone to Belle in an exquisite display.

 

Brendan Xavier is bold and bellicose as the Beast, the impressive timbre in his voice particularly evident in the final number before interval.

Rubin Matters revels in his pantomime persona as Gaston. He is the understudy who stepped up on opening night.

 

Rodney Dobson is memorable as Belle’s well-meaning father.

 

Nick Cox channels nervous energy as Gaston’s kowtowing offsider Le Fou.

 

Complete with an on/off switch for two candles, one on each hand, Rohan Browne brings spark to the good-natured candelabra Lumiere.

 

For Gareth Jacobs it is all about timing as the yin to Browne’s yang, the clock Cogsworth, the supposed head of the damned prince’s household.

 

Jayde Westaby engenders avuncular cheer into the teapot Mrs Potts and charms with her rendition of the titular musical number Beauty and the Beast.

 

Zanda Wilkinson is delightful as Mrs Potts’ teacup son, Chip, one of five alternates in the role.

 

Alana Tranter has an effusive, screeching laugh down pat as Madame, a set of drawers, while Hayley Martin is demonstrative as feather duster Babette.

 

It is also wonderful to hear Angela Lansbury set the scene as the narrator of the prologue.

 

Musically and visually, there are several stand out sequences, with the company in full voice, alongside a talented orchestra conducted by Luke Hunter.

Showstoppers include Gaston and Be Our Guest.

 

The dance sequences are mesmerising and extend from can can and tap to the balletic, while the choreography is superb.


The attention to detail in the lavish costuming is nothing short of extraordinary.

 

In fact, everything about Disney’s Beauty and the Beast is awe inspiring. It is a showcase of wonderment to be celebrated and roundly applauded.

 

It is playing at Her Majesty’s Theatre until 29th December, 2024.

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