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Disney’s Beauty and the Beast Musical, Liverpool Empire.

When I heard that a Disney production of Beauty and the Beast was coming to Liverpool, my inner child screamed with excitement, stomped her feet and demanded I see it. Liverpool has hosted the fairy-tale musical on it’s stages before, but I’d somehow always missed it. Knowing my partner can’t stand musicals (I know, he’s crazy) I booked a ticket for myself and resisted the temptation to buy a big golden Belle ballgown to wear on the night.

One of my favourite things about Liverpool’s Empire Theater is that for most shows, tickets start at just £13. This means that everyone has the chance to see world-class productions like this one. I opted for a £20 seat far left of the stalls in seat number L59 which, to give you an idea of the view, is where the above pic was taken.

The Empire’s seats are comfortable enough, and being at the end of the row, leg room isn’t much of a problem and my butt had enough space to shift around during the show. However, expect to miss a chunk of back left side of the stage set if you sit here.

Apart from the restricted view, and the stage-side strobe-light placement which almost burst my eyeballs whenever stage lightening struck or a spell was cast, I was happy with my cozy spot. That was until an enormous, bedazzled, pink satin curtain dropped from the rafters and Lumiere sang the words “Be…our…guest”, and I knew I should have forked out for a front of stage ticket.

In Be Our Guest, every element of the show is cranked up to max in an all-out, over the top, extravaganza cabaret which somehow manages to out-do the glamour and outrageousness of it’s counterpart in the 1991 animated film. Complex stage lighting, huge LED screens, clever costume design, energetic choreography and special effects are pulled together as a whole troupe of glamourous crockery and cutlery invites Belle to dinner in the most spectacular way.

Speaking of special effects, I wasn’t expecting the Beauty and the Beast musical to be as high-tech as it is. Maybe I’ve been away from the theatre for too long, but there were more visual effects being used here than I remember seeing before.

Throughout the show, LED screens that border the stage along with HD projectors are used to create atmosphere. This works especially well in the dark, creepy forest scenes when enraged wolves chase down Belle’s father, Maurice and later on, The Beast. We see towering wolf silhouettes flash against net screens in scenes that had a few of the younger audience members looking wide-eyed and spooked.

Creative costume design helps to make the fairy-tale magic real. Belle’s elegant dresses sparkle in the spotlight, and the Beast’s regal suits are beautifully embroidered and adorned with beads and jewels. Then there’s the army of sentient homeware costumes of display, including chatty candle stick, Lumiere who’s costume produces actual flames rather than the LED’s seen in other productions. Bossy clock, Cogsworth’s has a pendulum that swings freely inside his body, and the fabulous sentient wardrobe, Madame de la Grande Bouche has fully operational drawers and dressing table mirrors.

Of course, it’s the actors that bring these characters to life, and every last performance was flawless. I had goosebumps and tears in my eyes when the stunning Courtney Stapleton sang of Belle’s heartbreak, and the whole crowd urged her to slap cocky cock, Gaston, played by the hilarious Tom Senior, who boasted, flexed and swaggered his way through his performance. X-Factor’s Sam Bailey’s version of Angela Lansbury’s Mrs Potts, the cockney teapot was perfection and true to the film. My favourite performances of the night came from Sam Murphy who played flamboyant french flirt, Lumiere, and the equally as fancy, and comedic force that is Samantha Bingly, as Madame’s de la Grande Bouche.

Beauty and the Beast will charm and surprise you. If you’ve been missing the stage, now’s the time to return! The show will be visiting Edinburgh, Sunderland, Cardiff, Manchester and Dublin over the coming months so don’t miss out! You’ll going to have a blast. I might even have to see it again!

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