Alistair Robins and Annalene Beechey will star in Disney's first-ever UK tour, when they take the multi award-winning Broadway and West End hit Beauty and the Beast on the road. The musical, based on Disney's 1991 animated film of the same name, opens at Liverpool's Empire Theatre on 6 November 2001 (previews from 2 November) for four weeks before transferring to the Hippodrome in Bristol for a 15-week run from 7 December 2001 to April 2002. Further dates are expected to be confirmed soon.

Beauty and the Beast - a fairy tale about a young girl Belle who, by falling in love with a ghastly beast, unlocks the handsome prince inside - was Disney Theatrical Productions' first musical to be presented in the UK. It opened in May 1997 at the West End's Dominion Theatre, where it ran for three years, and went on to win the 1998 Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Musical. Worldwide, Beauty and the Beast has been seen by more than 20 million people.

Disney says that the show is one of the most elaborately staged musicals to be seen in this country outside the West End. Every performance will involve the manpower of some 102 cast, orchestra and crew, while 15 40-foot lorries will be required to ferry the set from city to city.

Alistair Robins, who plays The Beast, was seen most recently in the RSC production of The Secret Garden. His previous credits include Les Miserables, Tommy and Aspects of Love. Annalene Beechey, who reprises her London starring role as Belle, has also appeared in Les Miserables in the West End.

Robins and Beechey are joined in the touring cast of Beauty and the Beast by Barry James (as Cogsworth - the role he originated in the West End), Stephen Matthew (Lumiere), Julia Goss (Mrs Potts), Billy Boyle (Maurice), Karen Davies (Madame de la Grand Bouche), Anthony Clegg (Lefou), Kate Graham (Babette) and Ben Harlow (Gaston).

The touring production of Beauty and the Beast is staged by the original West End creative team and is directed by Robert Jess Roth with choreography by Matt West. The show features the Academy Award-winning music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice, and a book by Linda Woolverton.

- by Terri Paddock