This fairytale story concerns an old beggar woman who offers a spoilt, selfish prince a rose in return for shelter from the cold night, but he refuses. She warns him not to be deceived by appearances, for beauty is found within. However, when he does not help her, she turns in to a beautiful woman and then casts a spell on the young prince, turning him into a beast and casting a spell on his castle and all his servants, who are turned into utensils and furniture! She leaves him the rose and tells him that if he can learn to love another and earn their love in return before the last petal falls from the rose, then the spell would be broken. It is a special rose that blooms for years, but as years go by there are not many petals left and time is running out. The beast, because of his monstrous face, remains in his castle, never venturing out and is losing all hope, after all who could learn to love a Beast?
The Disney organisation has spent millions on this production and it shows in wonderful spectacular fashion. Nothing has been spared, with great scenic designs by Stanley A Meyer, that are some of the best I've seen on the West End. The costumes are equally stunning creating a magical effect on stage to the delight of children and adults a like. The music and lyrics, while not being too memorable, with the possible exception of one or two songs, is delightful and compliments the staging competently. The whole production has Disney stamped all over it and is exactly what you would expect from such an organisation. Quality is very high and Disney has done an excellent job in staging the show in London.
The show has been brilliantly cast with Alasdair Harvey as 'The Beast'. His performance is impressive, as he turns from being a nasty beast to a nice one! He has the audience mesmerised almost from the start when he acts bad and frightening, and then the audience warm to him as he begins to fall in love with the young 'Belle', played by Julie Alanah Brighten, who also performs convincingly. However, the show is not dominated by just these two! There are many characters that keep the show buzzing with entertainment throughout. 'Lumiere', played by Derek Griffiths, and 'Cosworth' played by Barry James, are delightfully funny as two of the beast's servants, one has been turned into a candle stick holder and the other a clock. Burke Moses. (Making his West End debut recreating the role he originated in the Broadway and Los Angeles production of 'Beauty and the Beast') is also perfect for the part of 'Gaston', a nasty amorous man that wishes to marry 'Belle', at any cost.
This is what some of the popular press had to say about the show when it opened last May. MICHAEL BILLINGTON of THE GUARDIAN said "It may not be high art but it's certainly great fun." NICHOLAS DE JONGH of THE EVENING STANDARD said "Mr Harvey's mournful Beast left me untouched." MICHAEL COVENEY of DAILY MAIL said "If you have kids, prepare to take them now."
This musical is a show I'm sure will run for many years. It is a quality production that is fun from start to finish, with Disney living up to its high reputation.