The Bristol Hippodrome
Wed 25th Aug – Sat 18th Sep 2021
This week we went back to the theatre for the first time since ‘you know what’ struck and we could not wait to find out what the World Premier Production of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast Musical would offer. In this article, we’re going to take a good look at the exciting show that welcomed us back!
I’ve included a synopsis of Beauty and the Beast’s plot, our highlights, age suitability guidance, useful accessibility information, the length of the show, our verdict on whether we think this is a show to spend your hard-earned cash on and the cast list.
I’ve also included a list of theatres Beauty and the Beast is due to be playing at and links to buy tickets*.
Let’s get started with a little background about the show.
WHAT’S THE HISTORY OF BEAUTY AND THE BEAST?
Beauty and the Beast first opened on Broadway in April 1994.
In the UK, the original West End production opened at the Dominion Theatre in April 1997. It played over 1100 performances to more than two million people and won the 1998 Olivier Award for Best Musical.
This new production of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast reunites the original Broadway creative team of the show including composer, Alan Menken and composer/lyricists, Howard Ashman and Tim Rice.
They’ve taken the classic story, expanded the score and added layers of ‘theatrical wizardry’.
Bookwriter, Linda Woolverton said:-
“I’ve found it so gratifying to have the liberty to go back in and tinker with the original book. I’ve trimmed, thrown out, re-conceived and spruced it up. I also made changes to the dialogue with an eye to gender equality and progressive cultural awareness. But Belle is still the intellectual feminist heroine she’s always been.”
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BEAUTY AND THE BEAST – PLOT SYNOPSIS
The story of Beauty and the Beast is based on the eighteenth-century French fairytale of the same name.
A hag arrives at a palace and asks the Prince for shelter in exchange for a rose. He turns her away so she casts a spell on the palace and inhabitants and turns the handsome prince into a beast. He can only become human again if he falls in love and is loved in return before the magic rose loses all its petals.
Bookish, beautiful Belle lives in a little French village with her unconventional inventor father. She feels like she doesn’t fit in there and dreams of getting away.
Self-absorbed, misogynistic Gaston, doesn’t like girls reading and ‘getting ideas’. With his bulging biceps, he believes he’s God’s gift to women and pursues Belle’s hand in marriage but plucky Belle declines, certain that there must be more to life than this.
Belle’s father gets lost in the scary woods and becomes a prisoner at the palace. In order to free him, Belle offers to sacrifice herself and stay with the beast at the palace forever. She hates having lost her freedom and misses her father but she doesn’t lose her spirit. Despite her terrible predicament, she holds her own against the domineering prince and makes friends with the kindly, enchanted household staff.
They bond over a book and a romantic dinner and as the prince begins to soften, it looks as though the spell might be broken. Cue jilted Gaston who incites a gang to “kill the Beast” and a dramatic fight between the love rivals ensues.
BEAUTY AND THE BEAST HIPPODROME COVID PRECAUTIONS
As you would expect, The Bristol Hippodrome has Covid 19 precautions in place. I showed my vaccination card which allowed for quick and easy entry. I knew to bring this as I’d received an email detailing the requirements, along with our e-tickets.
They do request customers to wear face coverings. I noticed staff wearing masks but none of the people near us in the audience was and I think the vast majority of people didn’t.
The full house and presumably the Covid measures meant there was a long queue trailing back towards Trenchard Street car park. It did move quickly but it meant that the show started a few minutes later than the advertised time so my twelve year old and I were even later than usual getting home.
SONGS IN BEAUTY AND THE BEAST MUSICAL
There’s beautiful singing throughout the cast and iconic songs in the production include Belle, Be Our Guest and Beauty and the Beast.
BEAUTY AND THE BEAST – HIGHLIGHTS
New designs and state-of-the-art technology bring new life to this classic story. The performance we saw was action-packed with special effects such as fog, smoke, video projection, flashing lights as well as sparkly curtains and a good old fashioned explosion of glitter. At one point the audience was delighted by an effect worthy of a Doctor Who regeneration!
The sets are impressive, very varied and transition seamlessly between the French village, Belle’s countryside home, the scary woods, the imposing palace and its huge library.
There are some fabulously over the top huge numbers. Of particular note is the colourful Gaston song, with its carefully coordinated colourful display. Louis Stockil’s slapstick style as the buffoon, Le Fou, was hilarious. The number went on and on, continuing to indulge us with acrobatics, dancing, sparkly costumes and a revolving stage.
WHAT AGE IS BEAUTY AND THE BEAST SUITABLE FOR?
The producers recommend the production for ages 6 and up, however, there are a few sections that could be pretty scary for children that young, such as the menacing wolves and loud music during the scenes in the woods.
It also won’t come as a surprise that the beast has a booming voice that amplifies when he shouts – which is fairly often, particularly at the start.
The ‘Kill the beast’ scene and subsequent fight in the wood and lightning effect around the theatre are also pretty loud and dramatic.
If your child is sensitive to loud noises and scary effects, you may like to wait until they’re a little older – maybe 8 or 9.
HOW ACCESSIBILE ARE BEAUTY AND THE BEAST PERFORMANCES?
Special effects include fog, smoke and video projection. My twelve year old who is a bit of a film buff (and therefore used to seeing the warnings on television) pointed out that there are a lot of strobing and flashing lights.
But Disney’s Beauty and the Beast aims to be inclusive. They offer audio described, signed, relaxed and captioned performances. You can find more information on accessible performances here.
HOW LONG IS BEAUTY AND THE BEAST MUSICAL?
Beauty and the Beast is approximately 2.5 hours long, including a 15-minute interval.
BEAUTY AND THE BEAST – THE VERDICT
Our return to the theatre had been a long time coming but this felt like the perfect show to go back to.
Beauty and the Beast is fast-paced, funny and features a sparky feminist protagonist. Belle also gets to wear some extravagant gowns, wins the guy and I guess they’ll end up living in the Prince’s huge palace rather than with Belle’s father in their little caravan, so there’s no compromise on the fairytale element either.
This really is a top-notch show from Belle and Beast, through the characterful household staff and right down to little Chip, there’s not a weak link in the cast.
So there you have it: Beauty and the Beast story synopsis, highlights, age suitability, our verdict and a list of theatres where you can catch the show next on its UK and Ireland tour.
If this sounds like a show you might like to watch, click through for more information or to book Beauty and the Beast tickets
WHERE IS BEAUTY AND THE BEAST UK & IRELAND TOUR NEXT?
Thursday 23 September – Saturday 16 October 2021
Thursday 21 October – Saturday 27 November 2021
Cardiff Wales Millennium Centre
Thursday 9 December 2021 – Saturday 15 January 2022
Dublin Bord Gáis Energy Theatre
November 2022 (rescheduled)
READ THE FULL GUIDE TO BRISTOL HIPPODROME SHOWS
For up to date show information, read my full Bristol Hippodrome what’s on guide. It covers Bristol Theatre productions including pricing, booking information and links to more reviews with age suitability guides.
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BEAUTY AND THE BEAST THE MUSICAL CAST 2021
Narrator – Angela Lansbury
Belle – Courtney Stapleton
Beast – Emmanuel Kojo
Lumiere – Gavin Lee
Gaston – Tom Senior
Mrs Potts – Sam Bailey
Cogsworth – Nigel Richards
Maurice – Martin Ball
Madame – Samantha Bingley
Babette – Emma Caffrey
Le Fou – Louis Stockil
Chip – Theo Querico, Manasseh Mapira, Iesa Miller, Rojae Simpson, Joshua Smith
Ensemble – Jake Bishop, Pamela Blair, Liam Buckland, Jasmine Davis, Matthew Dawkins, Autumn Draper, Alyn Hawke, George Hinson, Jennifer Louise Jones, Thomas-Lee Kidd, Aimee Moore, Sam Murphy, Grace Swaby, India Thornton
Swings – Daisy Edwards, Brontë Lavine, David McIntosh, Ashley-Jordan Packer, Emily Squibb, Rhys West
Rob Roth, a Tony®-nominee for the original production, directs again, leading a team that includes composer Alan Menken, lyricist Tim Rice, bookwriter Linda Woolverton, choreographer Matt West, scenic designer Stan Meyer, costume designer Ann Hould-Ward and lighting designer Natasha Katz. The team collectively received five Tony® nominations and a win for Hould-Ward’s costume design, when Disney first debuted Beauty and the Beast on Broadway 26 years ago.
DISCLOSURE: We received tickets/admission for the purposes of this review.
All opinions are my/our own and I retain full editorial control.