Beauty and the Beast: The Musical at the London Palladium | theater review
July 1, 2022
The magic of the enchanted castle of The beauty and the Beast storms the London Palladium. Like the witch casting the spell at the start of the story, cast and creators bewitch viewers with this spectacular musical.
Belle (Courtney Stapleton) is a strange girl from a small town, always with her nose buried in a book, and rejecting the marriage proposal of the handsome but vain Gaston (Tom Senior). As she ventures into a dark and dangerous wood in search of her unstable father, Maurice (Martin Ball), she finds him taken prisoner by a monster in the dungeons of a huge castle. She begs the monstrous owner to take her instead of the old man, and let him go. The agreement reached leads to salvation for many.
The visual impact of this production is one of its most striking elements. Costume designer Ann Hould-Ward and set designer Stanley A Meyer (who, along with director and choreographer Matt West, were part of the original team that brought the musical to Broadway) created impressive costumes and sets with dramatic effect. majestic and lovely. The recreation of the show relies heavily on technology, and while that may conjure up cool projections, here it’s so much more: cinematic renderings, a play on perspective, a seamless expansion of space… (That said, the Strobe lights sometimes pointed straight at the audience’s eyes can be uncomfortable for some.)
There’s an interesting and nimble restructuring of the story that contrasts with the original animation and the live-action movie: Belle is given an even stronger, more independent character, and that Beast (Shaq Taylor) gains a more thoughtful mind. The change caused by budding love does not come suddenly towards the end, but there is a gradual transformation. The Beast is fun too, participating in some of the more humorous skits.
When it comes to entertainment, however, the protagonists are the servants of the castle, who play a major role in giving real substance to the narrative and providing support to the whole. Gavin Lee is bubbly and fun as Lumière, able to rock the mood with the flick of a candle. Its first number, be our guest, It’s incredible. The catchy song reaches a dazzling climax: a bright pink curtain is the backdrop for a carousel of ingenious choreography, including modern dance, gymnastics and a fantastic tap-dancing segment (expressly incorporated to showcase the mastery of Lee in the genre). There’s also some clever use of costume adjustments and props, with the mugs featured here also appearing in another jaw-dropping number arranged for Gaston.
The enjoyable variety of action and technical support is complemented by powerful star vocals, with Stapleton giving audiences goosebumps more than once. Angela Lansbury provides a sweet cameo as the narrator, after her voice as Mrs. Potts in the original 90s Disney film.
Beauty and the Beast: the musical brings fun and tension, drama and emotion, surprises and rhythm. The theme of the transformative power of love may sound corny to contemporary audiences, but this production infuses new dynamics and attention to the story, making it a renewed classic.
Photo: John Persson
Beauty and the Beast: the musical is at the London Palladium from 24e june until 17e September 2022. For more information or to book visit the theater website here.