There’s a word that signifies excellence in musical theatre. That word is Disney.

I have seen plenty of musicals at QPAC that were decidedly below par, with production values and performances that didn’t warrant the ticket price.

The thing about a Disney production is that it is value for money and everything is seamless. No expense has been spared – they throw everything at their productions including the kitchen sink – and the performances are all at a level of excellence that Disney demands.

Some might find the Disney machine a little too perfect but, for me, I love a show that starts and finishes when it should and one where I am not thinking, well, half the cast was okay, not so much the other half.

Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, which has just opened in the Lyric Theatre at QPAC, is a cracker. It’s a show that is suitable for the whole family, which also is nice.

The original story is a French fairytale.  In a nice synergy,  you can see elements of it in the current exhibition Fairy Tales at Brisbane’s Gallery of Modern Art.

It is a fairytale that has been adapted many times. This current production is based on the 1991 Disney film which, I guess, is why they are selling popcorn in the foyer. It was the first animated feature ever nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards. It opened on Broadway in April 1994 and garnered nine Tony nominations and one win.

The original Australian production opened in Melbourne in 1995 starring Rachel Beck as Belle, Michael McCormick as the Beast, Hugh Jackman as Gaston and Bert Newton as Cogsworth. Yes, I know.

This new production, which retains the songs of Alan Menken, Howard Ashman and Tim Rice, begins in such a classy way, with narration by the great Angela Lansbury. Disney Theatrical Group brings back members of the original creative team on this  – and it is slick and warm and funny and moving and more.

The costumes are amazing, the set is staggering and it is at times the full Hollywood, with a spectacular dance segment for the song Be Our Guest that is like a Busby Berkeley scene on speed.  It’s completely over the top. Some great tapping, too, if you like tap. Who doesn’t?

It’s wholesome at times, flashy in parts but also dark and brooding. I kind of like the dark, brooding bits best but, hey, that’s just me.

What I really want to say about this show, however, is that the star, Shubshri Kandiah, who plays Belle, the Beauty, is outstanding. I was one of the first people to interview her when she burst out of the Queensland Conservatorium, Griffith University, and onto the stage at QPAC in Aladdin, another Disney production.

She is the real deal. She can dance, sing and act and she is just so thoroughly authentic and a pleasure to watch. Her understated star power is the foundation of this production. I’m sure others could do the role but I cannot imagine anyone doing it as well or better.

Her Beast, Brendan Xavier, is also excellent, although the story doesn’t allow us to see or hear as much of him as we’d like. But he has presence and gravitas as the Beast.

There are so many great performances in this production. Of course, I loved Jackson Head as Gaston going the full Jim Carrey with the role. There were times when I thought I was watching Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. Nothing wrong with that. He is just so good and so funny as Gaston, who is a narcissistic turkey. And Head is not only a great comedian, he can sing. Even better.

Rohan Browne is superb as Lumiere, the human lamp waiting for the spell that turned the prince into a Beast to be broken so he can return to human form, along with all the others in the castle who have become mere things under the spell.

The spell turned the prince into a Beast because of his lack of charity and, of course, it’s only love that can break that spell. It’s a French fairytale but the theme runs through world literature. This is a fairly simple moral fable and one that still has an attraction.

You will find yourself, like me, waiting for the moment when Belle’s love for the Beast transforms him. But it takes a couple of hours and plenty of theatrics before we get there.

It’s quite the spectacle and, as I said, seamless, with a fantastic live orchestra under conductor Luke Hunter. The music is superb.

But if it was just the technical artistry of people on stage and in the pit that we were admiring, that wouldn’t be quite enough. For while it is technically impressive and pretty near perfect in execution, it also has a lot of heart  – and that’s what makes it so special.

Disney’s Beauty and the Beast plays the Lyric Theatre, QPAC, until April 21

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