Disney Theatrical Productions has been changing lives for quite some time now. With hit shows such as The Lion King, Mary Poppins, Frozen and Beauty and the Beast, it’s no wonder they’re stealing the hearts of theatregoers all across the globe.
Needless to say I was very excited when I arrived at Dublin Airport at 5:15 am on a Saturday morning to fly over to Bristol to see the critically acclaimed touring production of Beauty and the Beast The Musical.
Disney has been a part of my life for over twenty years now. I grew up watching and loving the many magical musical movies. They were a staple part of my childhood, so much so that my first encounter with a Disney musical production was when I was eight years old with my family in New York City.
My dad took me to see the matinee performance of Mary Poppins on Broadway, and to this day, I still remember how that show made me feel. The magic, the singing, the wonder, those are the core ingredients of a Disney theatrical experience.
Fourteen years later I was sitting in the audience as a member of the press watching my next Disney musical. I was so surprised at how quickly those feelings came flooding back. I was eight years-old again watching Beauty and the Beast, the transformations, the peeling rose petals and the real fire coming out of Lumiere’s arms had my jaw on the floor for the entire duration of the show.
The late Angela Lansbury is the first voice you hear as the curtain rises, she introduces the show and if you have ever come across the beloved actor before, she is instantly recognisable. Alyn Hawke, who plays Lumiere, said: “I think that’s another really special moment in the show because unless people have actively read the programme beforehand, lots of people don’t realise at first that she’s going to be the narrator because we’re used to hearing that male narration voice in the in the original film, so when she starts, you can hear people muttering that’s Mrs. Potts!”
Beauty and the Beast ran in the London Palladium for 300 performances before transferring to a touring production. The Disney creators decided that they wouldn’t change anything, meaning that the show you are seeing is of the same scale as the Palladium run. How cool is that?
Alyn Hawke spoke about how special this production is, saying: “I think that the telling of this story is told in quite a unique way. We’ve veered away from some of the stereotypical aspects of some of the characters, like, for Gaston his character, he’s not quite as misogynistic, it’s put across that he just doesn’t realise instead of changing that. There’s a definite change in the choreography, we changed it so much. It’s definitely taken the show to a new era.”
There have been many interpretations of the characters over the years both on stage and on screen. The pressure of taking on such beloved roles was there for the actors at the beginning, a feeling that they took in their stride.
X Factor winner Sam Bailey, who plays the heartwarming Mrs. Potts said, “I wanted to channel the original Mrs. Potts, when playing this role. I’m not going to say that I didn’t, because I want people to come in and watch the show and feel a connection to the original so that they can be taken straight back to that. I don’t want people to come in and go, she’s not really Mrs. Potts, so I tried to channel as much as I can, who I think is the OG Mrs. Potts, Angela Lansbury. That’s the take that I took on from the beginning was to try and to make sure that people recognise that character straightaway.”
One of the most visually striking transformations in the show is Shaq Taylor’s Beast character. We sat down with him before the show started and once he stepped on stage, he was completely unrecognisable.
He talked about Beast’s make-up and prosthetics, saying: “I feel like it’s restricting in a good way as it adds to his imprisonment. The nose restricts me from expression of certain emotions, with a costume, it restricts me from expressing how he feels all the time because he’s become really good at suppressing his feelings and letting everything be within himself. So it has never been a challenge so much with the prosthetics and the makeup and the costume. It’s always added and elevated my process.”
The magic of this show is what makes it as brilliant as it is. Alyn Hawke spoke about how being a Disney fan added to his experience, saying: “I am a Disney man so I quite often equate it to being like our experience here and for the people coming to see the show, it’s like going to Disneyland because the show is so vast and epic. The costumes are beautiful and the way the set works with the screen combined with physical set pieces, and it is like Disney Imagineering thinking going into a stage production. The way the costumes work. The fact that Lumiere has real fire coming out of his hands and all the costumes have compartments and drawers that open.”
I would be lying to you if I said that I enjoyed this show, because I didn’t just enjoy it… I LOVED IT. Whether you are a fan of the movie adaptations or not, I promise you that this show is breathtaking in every way possible. Take it from me who sobbed their way through the finale and was inconsolable for about twenty minutes after the show ended.
Dublin is the final destination of their spectacular 18-month run. The show will arrive in the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre on November 24 and run until January 8, and is the most perfect Christmas show for all ages.
It was such a tremendous honour to see Beauty and the Beast The Musical, interview the cast and see the magic behind the scenes. Thank you so much to the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre for having me. I will never forget this trip.
For more information about Beauty and the Beast The Musical and where to get tickets, click here.
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