Liverpool Empire Theatre, 11-22 August
Disney’s classic love story, immortalised in the stunning 1991 Oscar nominated film, landed into the Liverpool Empire this week.
Based on the fairytale of the same name, Beauty and the Beast follows the life of Belle, a pretty girl from a small French village who is locked in a castle by a monster who has been place under an enchanted spell. As time passes, Belle begins to grow fond of the Beast and his servants, and the spell beings to break.
The beginning of the show is visually impressive. An animated video is projected onto a screen at the front of the stage. The screen then becomes transparent whilst the animated video is still playing. This effect is used again and again throughout the show and is visually stunning.
The cast were all good in the roles they played, but particular mention must go to Ashley Oliver, whose Belle will be remembered in the hearts of children for a long time to come – she wasn’t just playing the young girl who transformed into a princess, she was that character. Ben Harlow had an excellent voice, but his Gaston was a bit too camp.
The first act is good in setting the scene, but is riddled with too many songs that aren’t in the film. The songs which are well-written are received well, but there were lots of restless children during some of the other songs, and one feels that some could be shortened or cut completely. I’m not completely sure whether the new songs lack the charm of the songs which are from the film, or whether it is just because people don’t recognise them, but there is a definite change in the air when a recognisable song is performed.
Of the musical numbers ‘Be Our Guest’ was a highlight. It was a visual feast cabaret number, and the audience loved every second of it. The interval should have followed this song because it was such a spectacle. The following song, as a result, lacks the punch it requires and so the next few minutes seem a bit laboured. It is a shame because ‘If I Can’t Love Her’ is probably the best new addition of songs in the show.
The second act does seem much more focused and ‘Beauty and the Beast’ is performed to perfection and many a young princess in the audience will have this scene etched in their memory for many years to come.
- David Jack