Beauty and the Beast, Disney Theatrical Productions, Birmingham Hippodrome, 09 March 2022 (until 26 March 2022), 4**** David Gray & Paul Gray

It may be a ‘tale as old as time’, but Disney’s latest iteration of its Beauty & The Beast stage musical belongs firmly in the 21st Century. Every up-to-date bit of technological stage wizardry available has been thrown at it to create a spectacular, multi-media theatrical experience.  Stunning lighting effects, some genuinely gorgeous projections on backcloth and proscenium gauze, and a stage that never seems to stop moving combine with some old-fashioned visual sleights of hand to generate the kind of jaw-dropping magic that is just what this fairy-tale calls for.

Stage spectacles on this scale can sometimes eclipse the work of the actors telling the story, and the humanity in the story being told.  Happily, this is not the case here.  Understudy, Grace Swaby-Moore is a charming and charismatic Belle and manages with skill and conviction her character’s gradual realisation that she cannot judge the Beast based on his appearance.  Shaq Taylor brings compelling pathos to the role of the Beast, and Tom Senior is at first hilarious and then convincingly menacing as the narcissistic Gaston.

As the Beast’s servants, transformed into domestic objects by the curse, Gavin Lee, Sam Bailey, Nigel Richards, Samantha Bingley and Emma Caffrey skillfully manage the high comedy while never losing sight of the fear, courage and camaraderie experienced by the characters as they face their perverse fate.

The music, with one of two notable exceptions, is efficiently functional; strong enough to get into your head, but not strong enough to stay there for long.  Sam Bailey gives an exquisitely shaped and heart-felt rendition of the rather lovely title song.  Elsewhere, there is sometimes a little too much emphasis on delivering the big notes and not enough on the smaller notes in-between, and some of the younger voices are a little underpowered in the lower register.

Lavish dance numbers abound.  “Be our guest”, one of the standout songs of the show, is given the full Buzby Berkley treatment with high-kicking chorus lines, precision tap sequences and even aerial views of dancers forming kaleidoscopic shapes projected onto the backcloth.  This is the type of outrageous, gratuitous theatrical extravagance we just don’t see enough of anymore.

A bona fide blockbuster of a show, Beauty and the Beast is a feast for the eyes and carries real emotional punch.  You will laugh, you will cry, and you will most definitely enjoy.


Voice of the Prologue Narrator – Angela Lansbury

Belle – Grace Swaby-Moore

Beast – Shaq Taylor

Lumiere – Gavin Lee

Gaston – Tom Senior

Mrs Potts – Sam Bailey

Cogsworth – Nigel Richards

Maurice – Martin Bell

Madame – Samantha Bingley

Bebette – Emma Caffrey

Le Fou – Louis Stockil

Chip – Manasseh Mapira, Iesa Miller, Theo Querico, Rojae Simpson


Music – Alan Menken

Lyrics – Howard Ashman & Tim Rice

Book – Linda Woolverton

Director and Choreographer – Matt West

Musical Director – Jonathan Gill

Scenic Design – Stanley A Meyer

Costume Design – Ann Hould-Ward

Lighting Design – Natasha Katz

Sound Design – John Shivers

Hair & Make-Up Design – David H Lawrence

Illusion Design – Jim Steinmeyer

Projection/Video Design – Darrel Maloney

Resident Director and Choreographer – Kella Paney

Orchestrations – Danny Troob

Music Supervision and Arrangement – Michael Kosarin

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