Both beautiful and a little beastly
An overwhelming feeling of love emulated from the audience leaving the Bristol Hippodrome on Wednesday night, September 15, after watching the once upon a time fairy story of Beauty and The Beast.
It was beyond brilliant and for us a very welcome return to the theatre after the long, dark months of lockdown 1, 2 and 3.
On stage Beauty and The Beast played out so perfectly in the many ‘gosh’ and ‘gasp’ moments thanks to a marvellous cast backed by super sound, set, special effects, costumes and orchestra conductor - all par excellence.
This faultless, feelgood family show has the darkness of Phantom of the Opera mixed with influences of the Fred Astaire 1930s film Top Hat and the Folies Bergère.
The black and white of Hollywood yesteryear contrasts perfectly with the glamour of a mirrored kaleidoscope of colour choreographed in the style of Busby Berkely.
In fact, reviewing this performance it is difficult to choose who or what to single out for praise – it is a wonderful Broadway-style fantasy in song and every enchanting style of dance.
We had the cartoon characters of the 1991 Disney animation coming to life in this romantic fantasy based on a 18th century French fairy tale.
Like pantomime where you get your prince, princess, dame, baddie, the ups-and-downs of a romance with a bit of slapstick this musical is all that and much, much more.
We had bookish beauty Belle (Courtney Stapleton); her mad inventor father Maurice (Martin Ball), a sort of Professor Henry Higgins on a roadkill mobility scooter; horned beast (Emmanuel Kojo) with Kim Kardashian hips and big bum – he so cleverly transforms into a hunk with a heart in the closing moments; Gaston (Tom Senior) a boorish, vain suitor with big biceps and little brain understandably booed in final curtain call and his Buttons type sidekick the bumbling and tumbling Le Fou (Louis Stockil) and while there were standout performances from all the leads supporting actors including Lumiere (Gavin Lee) the charismatic, rebellious castle maître d', who was turned into a candelabra by the Enchantress's curse, head housekeeper Mrs Potts (Sam Bailey – X Factor winner 2013), Cogsworth (Nigel Richards) the ticking clock; Wardrobe (Samantha Bingley) and flirty French maid Babette (Emma Caffrey) with feather duster were all wonderful and their dialects added another dimension.
Last but not least we loved little Chip Potts (Rojae Simpson) who had a headlining part as we couldn’t see his body as he was in a cracked cup!
Cowered slightly at the sinister silhouetted wolves in the wood, admired greatly scenery backdrops and borders, the wooden Hobbit village and multi-storey library.
The moral of the story is ‘beauty is within’ and this is far more important that striding for the perfect body image – so now.
Packed to the rafters with people of all ages but despite a request to wear masks very few did unlike the Theatre Royal Bath the previous week, we were told. And like others no-one checked our Covid Passport which we were told was a necessary admission prerequisite?
We will be returning soon as there is nothing to beat live theatre.
Beauty and The Beast plays Bristol Hippodrome until Saturday, September 18.
With limited tickets from £25 available for the remaining shows call the box office on 0844 871 3012 or go online www.atgtickets.com/Bristol.
DANCE AND DINNER TIME: Courtney Stapleton as Belle and Emmanuel Kojo as Beast in Disney's Beauty and the Beast
Photo by Johan Persson © Disney
Summer holiday theatre treat
PREVIEW: A brand new production of Disney’s Beauty And The Beast is coming to the Bristol Hippodrome this summer.
Disney first debuted Beauty and the Beast on Broadway 26 years ago. Members of the original creative team have reunited on this new production that features all of the spellbinding music and lyrics of Alan Menken, Howard Ashman and Tim Rice.
Billed as the most enchanted musical show of all time with spectacular new designs and state-of-the-art technology to fuse with the classic story is it at the city theatre from Wednesday to Saturday, August 25-September 18.
The show includes the iconic songs Belle, Be Our Guest and Beauty And The Beast.
This timeless romantic tale will be brought to life on stage like never before, with all the charm and elegance audiences expect from Belle and her Beast.
What a summer holiday treat for the young and young-at-heart.
Recommend for children aged six and above.
Disney first debuted Beauty and the Beast on Broadway 26 years ago.
Oscar winning composer Alan Menken said: “Beauty and the Beast is a testament to the genius of my late friend and collaborator Howard Ashman, but the show's richness comes from the combination of Howard's style and that of the brilliant Tim Rice, with whom I expanded the score to give voice to the Beast.
"It's clear that audiences the world over want to return to the world of Beauty, which continues to amaze and humble those of us who created it. As the show returns to the UK, I cannot wait to see how Rob Roth and this glorious creative team bring the whole universe of Beauty and the Beast to life once again."
Lyricist Tim Rice said: “Beauty and the Beast is a story and a show which resonates through generations, and it was a great pleasure to work with Alan to expand the score he and the brilliant Howard Ashman first created.
“I am thrilled that there will be a brand new production and that the newest theatrical wizardry will bring another layer of magic to the tale. It is great that the UK will host the premiere of the new production, as this country has always enjoyed a special affinity with the show.”
This new Beauty, while retaining the lush period sound of the Oscar-winning and Tony®-nominated score - which brought classics including Be Our Guest and Beauty and the Beast, as well as Change in Me, added to the musical production in 1998 and retained thereafter - will be heard afresh with new dance arrangements by David Chase, allowing original choreographer Matt West to re-visit his work.Longtime Menken collaborators Michael Kosarin and Danny Troob are musical supervisor/vocal arranger and orchestrator, respectively. Completing the design team, Tony®-winner John Shivers is sound designer, Darryl Maloney is the video and projections designer, and David H. Lawrence is hair designer. Jim Steinmeyer is the illusions designer, as he was on the original 1994 production.
YOU HAVE TO KISS A LOT OF FROGS:
Courtney Stapleton as Belle and Emmanuel Kojo as Beast
The original West End production of Beauty and the Beast opened at the
Dominion Theatre in April 1997, playing more than 1,100 performances to more than two million people.
It won the 1998 Olivier Award for Best Musical and enjoyed a hugely successful UK & Ireland tour in 2001.
Based on the 1991 film – the first animated feature ever nominated for an Oscar for Best Picture – Beauty and the Beast opened on Broadway in April 1994 and garnered nine Tony nominations and one win.
It played for more than 13 years on Broadway, closing in 2007.
It remains to this day – 26 years after it opened – among the top 10 longest running shows in Broadway history.
The live-action retelling of the animated classic quickly became the highest grossing live action film musical of all time in 2017, a record only beaten by The Lion King live-action release in 2019.
Casting for the production, by Pippa Ailion Casting, will be announced at a later date.
Beauty and The Beast is produced by Disney Theatrical Productions, under the supervision of Thomas Schumacher.
Bristol Hippodrome box office: 0844 871 3012
Online tickets from £20 plus transaction fee of £3.65 from www.atgtickets.com/Bristol