Lovetovisit at the West End: The Beauty and the Beast Musical

29 July 2022 sent Sara Davies, one of our freelancers, on an exclusive trip to the London Palladium to review The Beauty and the Beast Musical

Everyone knows the story of the Beauty and the Beast, so what makes this one so special? Well, this spectacularly reworked production from Rob Roth shows that there’s still plenty of life to the old story with this new version of The Beauty and the Beast Musical.

This beautiful story about two outsiders, each of them different in their own way, takes you on a fantastical journey that has literally evolved for thousands of years. According to some anthropologists who trace the ancestry of fairy tales within language families, the origins of some of them can be traced as far back as 7000 years ago.

The origins of the story go back to the French novelist Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve who published a fairy tale of the same name, only in French – La Belle et la Bête, hence the girl’s name. A few years later, another novelist, Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont, rewrote it and published a new version which became the most known and eventually inspired Disney’s 1991 animated musical. The Beauty and the Beast we know today is probably a combination of a fantastical romance for adults and fairy tale for children.

Everytime a tale has been told, it reflects the culture of the century in which the version was created. While sticking to the core tale story, this production tries to tackle some of the current social and cultural issues, such as gender inequality, stereotyping, diversity, and feminism.

What makes it really stand out though, is an extraordinary overview of all the technological possibilities that the present-day theatre has to offer. From the moment the lights go dark it just takes your breath away. With the use of large scale projections, LED lighting, and even mirrors that make you shiver from head to toes, the show could be easily labeled as a 5D experience!

Over the years, the Beauty and the Beast story has been a subject to numerous interpretations and retellings. In a nutshell, this new version sticks to the core storyline about a beautiful woman that finds herself trapped by the Beast in his castle. They both grow fond of each other and their love eventually breaks the spell that has enchanted the Beast and his castle.

The real fun begins when it comes to newly added bits and pieces that don’t exactly correspond with some of the other versions and are uniquely chosen for this particular production, such as Belle’s father being portrayed as a mastermind, making his life easier with brilliant inventions but who is also being ostracized for his intelligence. Or Belle (starring the magnificent Courtney Stapleton) being an only child, taking the village’s local library by storm and dreaming about a better future. A future that has more to offer than a frustratingly narcissistic showboat whose biggest aspiration is to marry the most beautiful woman in the village, you know who!

Undeniably so, these bits and pieces are specially designed so they work well with the technological capabilities of the theatre. And the result is just out of this world.

Directed by Matt West, the show will amuse you with an inspiring inventiveness and its cartoon-like characters, taking off the layers with each new scene. And each song! The first half of the musical is mostly dedicated to the village and its residents, creating a subtle and pleasant anticipation of the awaited first appearance of the Beast (starring Shaq Taylor). Once you think you have seen it all, you are blinded with sparkling lights with titanic dancing dishes and feathers! As much as it is a musical, it is also a concert that will make you want to dance.

It may seem weird to praise something that you would probably enjoy as much in times when you could not tie your shoelaces, but do not forget that fairy tales were originally for grown-ups! With that said, it is probably safe to admit I may have had a drop a tear or two! A message for those who thought they were past the age of watching fairy tales: you are not, believe me.

Like what Sara's said? Book your tickets for The Beauty and the Beast Musical now at the London Palladium!