• review by John Murray

Beauty Sensation

Nigel Richards as Cogsworth, Sam Bailey as Mrs Potts, Gavin Lee as Lumiere in Disney's Beauty and the Beast - Photo by Johan Persson © Disney

Walt Disney will not lend their name to anything without quality throughout. From the joy that is the theme parks to the Disney Cruise Lines the expectation of luxury is met with cherished memories. It all started with a mouse though and those classic movies branched into musical theatre and currently Edinburgh Playhouse hosts the latest UK touring production of Beauty and the Beast. Now, 27 years after the Broadway debut members of the original creative team have got together to reimagine the presentation to great effect.

The pedigree is there for all to see. Composer Alan Menken has won more Academy Awards than any living individual and that includes eight Oscars. In fact, he is only the 16th person to have an EGOT which means an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar & Tony awards. The late Howard Ashman wrote the acclaimed lyrics while Tim Rice collaborated with Menken in 2017 with new lyrics. Sir Tim Rice we know with his work with Andrew Lloyd Webber and Elton John has himself a mantlepiece with 3 Oscars, 4 Tonys, 5 Grammys and 1 Emmy.

No pressure then for the creative team, live musicians and cast to produce a memorable experience. Challenge accepted in a packed season at Edinburgh’s Playhouse the opening swell of the overture and the lights that dimmed gave a hush of anticipation from an audience absorbing all before them and this before the legend that is Angela Lansbury narrating the introduction. The quality of Disney merchandise is universal and with several outlets within this grand venue a good range was on show from pins to a Rose pullover and these just a fraction to what is on offer online.

The creative team are the best in the business and the effects are there to amaze. Lighting can really set the scene whether it is the dark forbidding woods with animated wolves to the grand castle with dancing on an endless stage. At one breathtaking moment the dancers form a circle on the floor with a screen behind them showing the movements like watching Busby Berkeley movie live on stage. All the leads excelled but in particular Gavin Lee as Lumiere had his own fans. As the pink curtain fell Lumiere gave a knowing smile to introduce Be Our Guest, a huge number and already attracting applause from the introduction. Matt West directed and choreographed the production with David Chase as Dance Arranger and the athletic dancers showed their signature moves faultlessly and especially in complex numbers like Gaston as set in the Tavern. X-Factor winner Sam Bailey is a vastly talented performer, and she gets the title song all to herself playing the part of Mrs. Potts.

The transformation reveal and effects leading to this are exceptional quality with lighting in all directions leading to a memorable ending with a standing ovation and a few tears in our audience for a magnificent evening out.

Tickets: https://www.atgtickets.com/shows/disneys-beauty-and-the-beast/edinburgh-playhouse/

Runs until Nov 27th Edinburgh Playhouse

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