A tale as old as time mesmerises Melbourne

PHOTO: Daniel Boud

After nearly 30 years, Disney’s magical masterpiece Beauty and the Beast has returned to Melbourne.

It arrives following a record-breaking run in Brisbane, where it became the highest-selling season of any show at QPAC in a decade and third highest of all time, surpassed only by Phantom of the Opera (1996) and The Lion King (2014). 

Over half a million Australians have already seen the show in Sydney and Brisbane, so it was no surprise to see opening night sold out and the theatre buzzing with excitement. 

From beginning to end, the show was filled with mind-boggling magic that can only be described with one word… Disney

Playing the role of the strong-willed, bold and beautiful Belle is Shubshri Kandiah, who is the ultimate Disney princess. She has previously played Princess Jasmine in Aladdin and Ella in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella with Opera Australia.

When you have the privilege to watch Shubshri perform you can see why she is continuously castin these leading roles. My favourite moment in this production is watching her sing ‘A Change in Me‘, as it is so authentic and natural. 

“I get a bit lost in the material and my version of the role just comes out the way it will be,” Shubshri said ahead of opening night. 

PHOTO: Daniel Boud

Brendan Xavier has brought a sense of “softness” to the Beast which makes the storyline cohesive and more believable than previous interpretations as his character falls in love. And with his operatic vocals, the audience is left in awe. 

Brendan has previously performed with Disney as a part of the ensemble in Frozen, and later took over as Kristoff. 

Act One of Beauty and the Beast is filled with showstopping musical numbers such as ‘Gaston‘ and ‘Be Our Guest’.

‘Gaston’ is a vibrant and high-energy scene with outstanding choreography from the ensemble who clink their mugs over 800 times throughout the piece. 

The boorish and conceited Gaston was brought to life by Rubin Matters on opening night – covering for Jackson Head – with his bumbling sidekick Le Fou who is played by Nick Cox. 

My jaw was on the floor throughout ‘Be Our Guest’ thanks to the utter brilliance of this visually stunning scene. It’s led by Rohan Browne who takes on the charismatic candlestick Lumiere in his stride. 

Gareth Jacobs plays the counterpart of Lumiere in a sassy and flamboyant interpretation of Cogsworth. 

Melbourne is Gareth’s hometown and Her Majesty’s Theatre is where he watched his first show all those years ago. So, it really is a full circle moment.

“I can vividly remember being 10-years-old up in the dress circle… I think that’s where the love of theatre started for me,” he said. 

He hopes to inspire the next generation of performers sitting in the audience across this season.

PHOTO: Daniel Boud

Triple threat Jayde Westaby plays the role of Mrs Potts with such precision that if you close your eyes, she sounds exactly like Emma Thompson in the live-action version. Her rendition of ‘Beauty and the Beast’ is delightful. 

Completing the group of palace servants is Alanna Tranter as Mademe and Hayley Martin as Babette. 

Hayley showcases her dancing expertise, especially during her ‘Be Our Guest‘ solo, with her elegant costume making it hard to believe she is just a feather duster.

Alanna turned the shrieking, singing wardrobe into a cheeky fairy-godmother-type character who enjoys playing Cupid. 

Beauty and the Beast marked Zanda Wilkinson’s professional theatre debut in the role of Chip, one of five young actors to step into the role this season. He had me, and most of the audience, in tears as he finally ran across the stage, transforming back into a little boy after spending the entire show with his head in a teacup. 

The breathtaking costumes, sets, music and talent are truly spectacular and like nothing I have seen before.

It is not surprising it took 23 8-tonne trucks, a 70-person team and 15,000 people hours to bump in to Her Majesty’s Theatre. 

When I say watching Beauty and the Beast feels like a trip to Disneyland I am not exaggerating.

This show is like experiencing a dream world you never want to leave. You must see this masterpiece of a musical before it leaves in November! 

New performances are on sale from tomorrow, exclusively at beautyandthebeastmusical.com.au

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