Sunderland Empire, 26/01/2022
Bonjour! Disney’s very own ‘tale as old as time’ is midway through it’s UK tour and we were lucky enough to be invited to the press night at Sunderland Empire. Featuring a magnificent cast (battling illness with three understudies smashing it at our performance), the show that originally debuted on Broadway 27 years ago has been reimagined by the original creative team for this UK & Ireland tour. Featuring all the songs and the same story as the beloved film, this show was destined to be a spectacle. Read on for our five reasons to see Beauty and the Beast the Musical!
1. The group numbers
Most of our ‘five reasons to see’ posts praise the ensemble, and this one is no different. The cast are outstanding in the show, especially during the big numbers such as ‘Belle’ and ‘Gaston’. A highlight of the performance is the greatly anticipated ‘Be Our Guest’. The dazzling 12 minute number packed with acrobatics and incredible tap dance is an absolute joy. Led by Lumiere (Gavin Lee), the number builds to a crescendo of music, lights and dancing received raucously by a packed out auditorium.
2. The detail of the set
When seeing a Disney tour you may have a level of expectation regarding the production value; Beauty and the Beast does not disappoint. Each piece of set has such intricate detail it really creates a beautiful show. From the thatched roof of Belle’s home draped in parts of Maurice’s inventions to the candlelit grand shapes that fly in to represent the castle, it’s obvious that the design team have worked tirelessly on this production and thought of every part of it. Supporting the entire show, the backdrop used is a huge screen allowing for seamless scene-changes and nuances in the background of scenes like a stream running in the back of the dungeon all adding to the experience of the show. The large screen at the back was utilised in a really unique way to detail certain choreography in ‘Be Our Guest’ too – we won’t spoil it but look out for that too! The use of projection alongside the screen allowed for such dramatic effect with the wolf chases too.
3. The costumes are amazing
Keeping up with the extravagance of the set design, the costumes in this show are wonderful too. Each unique townsfolk costume starts the show strong, but as we are transported to the castle the costumes really do begin to bedazzle. Lumiere’s working candle hands are brilliant and help as a great comedic tool throughout (not to mention they are 5kg each!!). The Beast’s costume is so realistic too, fur breaching his ripped clothes and grand horn topped mane create such a monstrous figure to be feared. The most stunning costume in the show of course is Belle’s dress for the iconic dance scene. Lined with sparkling jewels across across the layered yellow fabric brings the image of the Disney princess to life on stage, audibly taking the audience’s breath as she appears.
4. The characterisations are on point
Any big Disney fan will have a real connection with how the characters are in the film. The cast of this tour really do bring those characters to the show. The chemistry between Lumiere (Gavin Lee) and Cogsworth (Thomas Lee-Kidd) is brilliant as their opposite personalities work so well together on stage. Sam Bailey is a perfect Mrs Potts with a rich voice and flawless accent her performance is so reminiscent of the treasured Angela Lansbury who voiced the original part in the film (and voices the prologue of the show too!). Gaston is played by Tom Senior who captures the original characterisations completely, oozing arrogance and selfishness he gets it spot on. Alyn Hawke plays Beast in such a powerful way, his stage presence and amazing vocal ability excel in the closing number of Act 1 ‘If I Can’t Love Her’
5. The orchestra and the score
From the moment the overture begins, the sound of the orchestra is angelic. The score written to accompany certain scenes throughout the show is absolutely beautiful and uses melodies from the popular songs within to provide the right pathos at each moment. The work of Alan Menken that has graced so many Disney classics is in full swing in this show. We are treated to an Entr’acte and Exit Music too, each showcasing snippets from one of the most gorgeous scores in Menken’s Disney career.
Overall we had such a great time seeing this show. If you’re a fan of the original film and want to see that brought to life, this is the show for you. As mentioned at the beginning of this blog, we had three understudies on: Grace Swaby as Belle, Thomas Lee-Kidd as Cogsworth and Liam Buckland as Le Fou. All three were absolutely excellent as they stepped up to the mark and gave such brilliant performances. Don’t miss this spellbinding show!
Beauty and the Beast the Musical is currently playing at Sunderland Empire until Saturday 19th February. You can get your tickets to see Beauty and the Beast the Musical on tour and when it arrives in London by clicking here!