Direct from the West End, Disney’s classic Beauty and the Beast has arrived in Sydney at the Capitol Theatre. This reimagined production brings together the original creative team: Broadway’s Matt West as director/choreographer, Alan Menken as composer, Tim Rice & Howard Ashman as lyricists. Alongside them are Natasha Katz (lighting designer) and Ann Hould-Ward (costume designer) who were also a part of the original creative team. Meanwhile, Danny Troob joins the creative team as Orchestrator. Troob was the original orchestrator and song arranger for the beloved animated film in 1991.
We are lucky to have the original team for the Australian season, and it’s a mark of confidence in our national musical theatre scene as well as the talented local cast and crew. This talented creative team successfully bring to life this magical production, which is filled with beauty and grace. You can feel it the moment you step inside the beautiful Capitol Theatre. Sitting in your seat, you can see the iconic imagery of Beauty and the Beast projected on a curtain on stage reminding you that you are about to be taken on a magical tale.
With the curtain rising, the twinkle of the orchestra (Music Director & Conductor Luke Hunter) playing the prologue, we are treated to our first look at the Beast standing atop a staircase. For this production, The Beast is played by Brendan Xavier, who brings both fight and tenderness to the role. This is seen best during “If I Can’t Love Her”, which brought many in the audience to tears. It’s no surprise, then, that the audience was with him every step of his journey to break the curse.
Right from her introduction Shubshri Kandiah‘s Belle rushes in and steals the stage, with an intelligent and elegant performance. Her opener shines with sweetness, and she hits every note and step perfectly (this Belle can also tap dance!) Kandiah’s rendition of “Home” is a particular highlight.
We are next introduced to the egotistic Gaston (Jackson Head) and his comedic sidekick Le Fou (Nick Cox) who burst their way through the village. Cook and Cox are a perfect match, and the pair make a statement every time they’re on stage. This is especially true during the song “Gaston” – a real crowd pleaser.
As we step foot inside the enchanted Beast’s castle, we are introduced to the ever-so-dizzying housekeepers: Lumiere (Rohan Browne), Cogsworth (Gareth Jacobs), Mrs Potts (Jayde Westaby), Babette (Hayley Martin), Madame (Alana Tranter) and Chip. The characterisation of each of the characters are unique, and each of the housekeepers stands out in their own right. Their obvious highlight was the iconic “Be Our Guest”.
The song is presented as a French cabaret spectacular on a whole new level. And, when a pink curtain dropped behind Lumiere and the orchestra played the opening notes of the familiar tune, we the audience were in the palm of their hands. The production went big on this one, with a huge set, lots of colour and the biggest dance number – a grand chorus line tap number featuring Belle, Lumiere and the ensemble. The choreography from Matt West was outstanding, and the standing ovation was well deserved, but no surprise. Spectacular, spectacular!
As with every Disney story there was magic at work. For this production the magic was in the design; in particular the set design, the lighting, the special effects and the costumes. Designed by Ann Hould-Ward, the costumes were simply stunning (and yet functional). They sparkled in the light and there were so many little details for the audience to notice, whether it be the Eiffel Tower in love hearts on the bottom of Mrs Potts’ dress, to the drawers on the Madam costume, which could actually hold Belle’s dresses. Fans of the original animated movie, would not be disappointed.
Likewise the set design was influenced heavily by the original film, with designer Stanley A. Meyer and Rob Roth ensuring all the little details were looked after. Though, the entire technical team should be applauded, with all of the different elements coming together to build an atmosphere that was palpable. The production is also groundbreaking, deploying an all LED lighting rig – the first for a musical of this scale. So, whilst the little things mattered in this production, they also nailed the iconic set pieces, in particular the dinner/dance moment to “Beauty & The Beast ( Tale As Old As Time)” was beautiful and moving.
Beauty and the Beast is a spellbinding production that has all the love and magic of Disney. With outstanding technical ability behind the scenes and an accomplished cast up front, this is a production not to be missed.
FIVE STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Beauty and the Beast is playing now at Capitol Theatre in Sydney. Purchase your tickets HERE.
The reviewer attended on 22nd of June 2023