Beauty and the Beast the Musical - Capitol Theatre (NSW)
Music by Alan Menken. Lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice. Book by Linda Woolverton.
Reviewed by Justin Clarke
Capitol Theatre, Sydney Until December 24th, 2023
- Disney puts its money where its mouth is to produce a truly magical night at the theatre for all ages -
There’s four things that are needed to get my theatrical jollies going. Firstly, do a big, lavish and highly choreographed musical number. Secondly, add a tap dance number somewhere in the middle of said number with big three-finger smiles and pizazz. Thirdly, finish with a kick line. Fourthly, and most importantly, throw your money in the right place, with heart. Luckily for Australia, Disney’s Beauty and the Beast did all four in one stupendous, show-stopping number and then some - I’ll leave you to consider which one.
My earliest memory of going to the theatre was seeing the Sharon Millerchip led production of Beauty and the Beast featuring the late Bert Newton at the Majesty’s Theatre. Now, almost twenty (okay, thirty) years later, Beauty and the Beast has been given a new lease on life. With seemingly unlimited access to Mickey’s wallet gifted to Australia’s Disney Princess herself, Shubshri Kandiah.
Images by Daniel Boud
Collecting her third notch as a princess, Kandiah takes on the role of Belle with an electric charge. Hot off playing Jasmine in Disney’s Aladdin before taking on Cinderella in both Belvoir’s Into the Woods and Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella, Kandiah proves why she is Australia’s go-to princess. The effortless air in which Kandiah moves is filled with grace and poise, shifting from the bookish odd-one-out, to a dazzling and (quite literally) awe-inspiring princess in Anne Hould-Ward’s instantly iconic yellow gown. As Kandiah takes on Gaston, a revoltingly misogynistic character, I couldn’t help but cheer for her empowering blow.
Relative newcomer, Brendan Xavier, has the much heftier role of the Beast. With Xavier only having one solo song (‘If I Can’t Love Her’) unfortunately placed after the musical's pièce de résistance, the Beast required a reliance on vocal belt to pull our attention away from the dazzling lights and tap-dance, which Xavier mostly managed to land. The Beast’s chosen direction here is more petulant young adult stuck in a Beast’s body, than a man withered and tired from hope. It took a while to warm up to, but Xavier’s warmth and humour won me over in the end.
What I had not expected from this production was just how funny it was! The comedic heft of the show falls entirely on Rohan Browne’s Lumiere, Gareth Jacob’s Cogsworth, Jayde Westaby’s Mrs Potts and Alana Tranter’s Madame. With each performer trapped within a rigid, yet still entirely spectacular furnished costume, their ability to bring depth, warmth and massive amounts of humour filled up the space when left bare. Browne’s constant ignition of flames accentuated punchlines, whereas Jacob’s use of improv around Linda Woolverton’s book had me and the audience in stitches. Westaby’s maternal Mrs Potts was always the correct temperature held within her spouted hand, whilst Tranter’s Madame was outrageously French and alluring.
Filling in the overcompensating shoes of Gaston, Jackson Head perfectly pulled the audience between disdain for his misogynistically manipulative nature and his roguishly detailed execution of the role. His second-hand man, Lefou (Nick Cox) kept neatly in tow and bounced off Head as Gaston’s opposite.
Some of the loudest applause though has to go to the ensemble who took on Matt West’s tight and intricate choreography with ease. Flipping, twirling, and gliding across the stage, each member of the cast added to the overall magic that was intrinsically threaded throughout the performance.
Disney has very truly and thoughtfully put its money where its mouth is and delivered a spectacle in its truest form.
The timeless melodies of the 1990s award-winning film score come to life under the superb orchestrations of Danny Troob. John Shivers' overall sound design fills the theatre, immersing the audience in the quiet village, the menacing forest, and the poignant moments of the pivotal number, 'Beauty and the Beast.' The transitions between each musical moment are subtle yet powerful, culminating in a vibrant explosion of colour on stage. It's a testament to the enduring brilliance of the original film and its Oscar-worthy music.
Given the original inception of Beauty and the Beast now re-enters a 21st century lens, it doesn’t manage to escape unscathed. The social media deconstructions of Stockholm Syndrome couldn’t be escaped with a few eye rolls and guffaws from those around me. And the Beast’s immediate abusive nature works against our desire for him to woo Belle. And yes, Belle still ends up with the need for a man to help make her complete. However, with the amount of heart and soul placed into each character and moment, these falter to simple misgivings.
A clunky ending that patters time to prepare the Beast’s final transformation almost derails the momentum gained previously. Gaston’s fall to his death relied on the same shtick utilised in Les Miserables when it was last performed at the Capitol Theatre - it looked comical then and still looks comical now. But as the final magical transformation appears, Natasha Katz, Jim Steinmeyer and Darrel Maloney’s use of lights swiftly pulls you back into the magic and much-needed awe of the finale. Indeed throughout the production, Katz, Steinmeyer and Maloney distort reality through the use of shadow and mirrored trickery. If someone could please give me a detailed explanation of how they managed to separate Chip’s (Orlando Steiner) head from his body on a moving tray, I would very much appreciate it!
Disney has very truly and thoughtfully put its money where its mouth is and delivered a spectacle in its truest form. The eternal feeling of love delivers in the title song, whilst a standing ovation worthy ‘Be Our Guest’ challenges the length of time the performers can hold a pose. This truly is the magical production of the year for all ages.
Shubshri Kandiah BELLE Brendan Xavier BEAST Rohan Browne LUMIERE Andy Cook GASTON Gareth Jacobs COGSWORTH
Jayde Westaby MRS POTTS Nick Cox LE FOU Rodney Dobson MAURICE Hayley Martin BABETTE Alana Tranter MADAME
Tanika Anderson ENSEMBLE Richard Astbury SWING Sarah Bourke ENSEMBLE Cameron Boxall ENSEMBLE William Brougham ENSEMBLE
Virginia Cashmere ENSEMBLE Emily Corkeron SWING Phoebe Coupe ENSEMBLE Amba Fewster ENSEMBLE Anthony Garcia ENSEMBLE
Luke Haberecht ENSEMBLE Jackson Head SWING Amy Hopwood SWING Brady Kitchingham ENSEMBLE Chloe Malek ENSEMBLE
Ryan Ophel SWING Anthony Sheppard ENSEMBLE Thalia Smith ENSEMBLE Luke Ward ENSEMBLE Grace Williams SWING
Romeo Angelkovski CHIP Akira Guiguen CHIP Christopher Joseph CHIP
Linda Woolverton BOOKWRITER Alan Menken COMPOSER Howard Ashman LYRICIST Tim Rice LYRICIST Matt West DIRECTOR & CHOREOGRAPHER
Stanley A. Meyer SCENIC DESIGNER Ann Hould-Ward COSTUME DESIGNER Natasha Katz LIGHTING DESIGNER Michael Kosarin MUSIC SUPERVISOR AND ARRANGEMENTS John Shivers SOUND DESIGNER
Rob Roth PRODUCTION CONCEPTION Danny Troob ORCHESTRATOR Darrel Maloney VIDEO AND PROJECTION DESIGNER David H. Lawrence HAIR & MAKE-UP DESIGNER Jim Steinmeyer ILLUSION DESIGNER
David Chase DANCE MUSIC ARRANGEMENTS Christoph Buskies ELECTRONIC MUSIC PROGRAMMING Rick Sordelet FIGHT DIRECTOR Lorenzo Pisoni PHYSICAL MOVEMENT COORDINATOR Sam Scalamoni ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR
Chandon Jones ASSOCIATE CHOREOGRAPHER