On the 17th September 2022, I attended the evening (and closing performance) of Beauty and the Beast at the London Palladium.
We’re all familiar with the famous story of Beauty and the Beast and having seen a touring production a good number of years ago, I was confident I knew what to expect.
The story is the same one that we’ve all come to know and love, however, this rework did leave me disappointed in some areas.
Much of Act one is lead by Lumiere (Gavin Lee), we don’t see much of Beast (Shaq Taylor) until Act two, which is disappointing as he is an extremely talented cast member, and a hugely important character. To not see much of him leaves the story lacking.
Act one dragged slightly, featuring two huge dance numbers (Gaston and Be our guest), perhaps just one showcase number would have sufficed. It wasn’t until act two that the story really picked up and seemed to flow much more smoothly. The ratio between the act one and act two running times was also disproportionate, act two was significantly shorter. Some of the beautiful moments felt rushed, some more time could have been given to these parts, the Beast giving Belle the library for example. We went from the wolf attack to the title song very quickly, it would have been nice to see some development in the relationship between the two characters.
The Cast & Creative Team:
Gaston (Tom Senior) didn’t hit the mark for me. Choosing talk singing (think Rex Harrison in “My fair lady”) was, for me, a strange choice. The few notes he sang were amazing and really show cased his singing ability, I would have preferred for him to actually sing throughout the whole show. His portrayal was a far cry from the Gaston we all might be used to, he was more “jock” rather than just plain nasty. We did see this turn slightly in the final fight scene in which Gaston met his ultimate demise. The death of Gaston was also very clever, and not done in the way I was expecting. Gaston also famously has a song in act one. Again, a showcase of talent but the dance number went on far too long and added nothing to the show or plot overall, not to mention bizarre tankard clanking.
Visually, the show is spectacular (although there are some scenes that look a little lost on the giant stage of the Palladium). “Be our guest” is a stunning, visual masterpiece, with lights, confetti, and a cleverly placed mirror. The wolf scenes, done via projections were also a triumph. The transformation of the Beast into a human was also very well done, although the stage was disappointingly dark, stopping the audience from seeing the transformation properly, in the inclusion of a sheer curtain also added to the difficulties.
Courtney Stapleton as Belle, undoubtedly an outstanding talent and found the perfect balance between kind but strong and firm. A wonderfully modernised portrayal, bringing a cheeky sense of humour as well as sweeping us up in her life and desire to have more than she appears destined for.
Honourable mention must be given to Shaq Taylor’s rendition of “If I can’t love her”, a true joy to listen to and the perfect end to act one.
Overall, Beauty and the Beast is a lovely show, probably best suited to a family event. Missed the mark in a lot of places, it would be lovely to see this come back to the West End as a more permanent feature having worked on some of its shortcomings.