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Disney’s Beauty and the Beast
Edinburgh Playhouse, Greenside Place
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At the end of the press night of Disney's Beauty and the Beast at The Playhouse, however, there was little doubt that it was the sheer breath-taking spectacle of Stanley A Meyer's scenic design, Ann Hould-Ward's costumes and Natasha Katz' lighting, which combine to make this one of the most sumptuous musicals to come to Edinburgh in many a year.
A much-loved favourite, Beauty and the Beast may well be a tale as old as time but this new staging uses all the wonders of 21st century technology to bring the fairy tale world of Belle and her hirsute suitor to life in a vibrant production created by members of the team who brought the original Broadway production to New York 27 years ago.
With love, acceptance and self discovery at its heart, Beauty and the Beast is the story of the beautiful, bookish Belle who trades her liberty for that of her father when she agrees to take his place as the prisoner of a great Beast who, in reality, is a bewitched prince. Can the Beast change his ways enough for Belle to fall in love with him and break the spell that transformed him?
As Belle, Courtney Stapleton is a joy to behold, sweet but never sickly so she shows a feisty edge that is refreshing. Her crystalline delivery of Alan Menken, Howard Ashman and Tim Rice's spellbinding songs matched only by the power of understudy Alyn Hawke, who makes the part of the Beast his own. There is no doubt, this is his production, his delivery of If I Can’t Love Her sending shivers down the spine.
If, at times, the sheer scale of the production appears to dwarf some of the performances, bigger is better here, others rise to the occasion brilliantly.
As Le Fou, Louis Stockil channels the late Freddie Starr with a smidgen of Max Wall and all the physical genius of Norman Wisdom. His clowning skills are second to none.
Gavin Lee too is a joy to watch, lacing his Lumiere with a waspish and knowing empathy while Sam Bailey's Mrs Potts has a scene-stealing moment with a beautifully delivered rendition of the title track.
The energy ramps up to new levels in the big set pieces, never more so than in Be Our Guest. The highlight of the night it's a 10 minute 24 second long song and dance routine that would surely have made Busby Berkeley smile. Director and choreographer Matt West's cascade of kaleidoscopic colours and patterns whisks audiences and cast alike into a magical musical wonderland.
Majestic and magical, there is absolutely no doubt about it, this production of Disney's Beauty and the Beast is a spectacular, mesmerising treat for the senses and one you owe it to yourself to see.
Run ends November 27