Review: Beauty and the Beast at Symphony Hall | Redbrick | University of Birmingham

Review: Beauty and the Beast at Symphony Hall

Culture Editor Olivia Boyce reviews a special screening of Beauty and the Beast at the Symphony Hall, accompanied by a live orchestra

There are few films as beloved as Beauty and the Beast, the animated Disney classic first released in 1991. Last year saw the release of a live action version, with a starry cast including Emma Watson, Emma Thompson and Ian McKellen. A box-office success, it was a smash hit for a new generation of movie goers, and on a Sunday afternoon it arrived at Birmingham’s Symphony Hall, accompanied by a live orchestra for a special screening that proved to be a truly magical experience from start to finish.

A truly magical experience from start to finish

The film has a great many of the elements that made the original successful. There’s the comedic duo of Cogsworth and Lumiere, here voiced by Ian McKellen and Ewan McGregor, and the excellently cast Luke Evans as Gaston, the somewhat pompous villain of the film, supported by Josh Gad’s first-rate turn as LeFou. The central love story remains, though it seems more nuanced than in the original, and of course the castle’s inhabitants, the objects that come to life, are as delightful as ever.

Here too are newer elements, most notably the inclusion of songs not found in the original, and the back story given to Belle’s parents and the Beast’s upbringing, which make them all the more compelling as characters. The costumes are excellent and the castle’s design is breathtaking – both come to life in a stunning realisation of the animated version’s beautiful illustrations. All in all, it’s a pretty wonderful movie, even without the added bonus of orchestral performance.

The film’s score, from the legendary creative team of Lyricist Howard Ashman and composer Alan Menken, was given a magnificent performance by the orchestra. The original film received huge acclaim for its music, collecting Oscars for Best Original Score and Best Original Song, and its so very easy to hear why – it is a glorious, nostalgia-inducing score, and one that sweeps the audience up from start to end. The orchestra was note perfect throughout, though particular highlights include their performance of an Overture, a lovely theatrical touch that sent a ripple of excitement through the audience, as well as a stunning rendition of Evermore, a new song performed by Dan Stevens’ Beast. 

A glorious, nostalgia-inducing score, and one that sweeps the audience up from start to end

The title track, sung here by Emma Thompson’s Mrs Potts, hits all the right notes, and there’s a collective intake of breath, and a fair few tears, as the iconic tune fills the Symphony Hall. There are few moments as memorable as hearing the string section of an orchestra begin one of the songs that undoubtedly pulls at the heartstrings, and it is an indicator of the power of Menken/Ashman’s tunes, as well as the skill of the orchestra and conductor, that they continue to enthral and delight audiences even now.

The end of the performance saw reprises of some of the songs played over the credits, with audience members singing and humming along. As the final moments came to a close, the orchestra was greeted with well-deserved applause and a partial ovation. From the children dressed up as characters from the film, to the older members of the audience, it was clear everyone had had a wonderful afternoon.

Third year English Literature student. Print Editor for Redbrick Culture. Appreciator of all things literary or stagey. Often found singing musical theatre tunes when I think no-one is watching. (@liv_boyce)


12th April 2018 at 2:30 pm

Images from

THSH and Disney and Disney Concerts