Just weeks before the new Disney junket, The Lion King, is due to arrive in the West End, the old cartoon-to-stage-musical, Beauty & the Beast, has announced that it will be leaving. Beauty & the Beast, which opened at the Dominion Theatre on 13 May 1997 (previews from 29 April) , has not confirmed a definitive date for its closure, but a spokesperson for the show has confirmed that it will be finishing its run near the end of the year. The musical had been booking until 25 March 2000.

Due to the size of the production, there are no plans to tour or take it elsewhere. The spokesperson told Whatsonstage.com that there were no ulterior motives for the closure plans, just that the show had 'run its course'. But speculation continues that it too may have fallen victim to The Lion King effect which is seeing a shake-up of long-running musicals in favour of fresh blood.

Doctor Dolittle, the first casualty, will be finishing its run at the Apollo Hammersmith this month, to be replaced by a limited run of the 70s compilation musical Oh! What a Night. Rumours are that a revival of The King and I, starring Elaine Page, may follow Beauty & the Beast into the Dominion. Other big musicals poised for a West End run include Boublil and Schonberg's once-again reworked Martin Guerre, an adaptation of Thomas Hardy's classic novel Tess of the D'Urbervilles, Cameron Mackintosh's take on John Updike's Witches of Eastwick as well as a Mackintosh revival of My Fair Lady.

Beauty & the Beast received a high-profile cast change this past April when stage star John Barrowman and soap-actress-turned-pop-singer Michelle Gayle took over the principal roles. The introduction of Gayle to the cast also coincided with the inclusion of a new song - 'A Change in Me' - to the London production. The song was written by composer Alan Menken and lyricist Tim Rice for singer Toni Braxton when she joined the Broadway production of the musical last year. Gayle and Barrowman's six-month contracts finish at the end of October.

Directed by Robert Jess Roth, Beauty & the Beast won the Olivier Award for Best New Musical in 1998.