This new Mandarin language production (no subtitles) is a significantly scaled-down version of the original 1994 Tony Award-winning musical that ran on Broadway continuously for thirteen years, and has since grossed nearly one and a half billion dollars worldwide.
However, Alan Menken’s breathtaking score, including the extra songs from the Broadway show, comes alive with a full chorus and a live eight-piece orchestra, enriched by some extra prerecorded elements.
The star of the show is undoubtedly Lumière (Haifei Mao), who’s a huge hit with the audience and delivers an outrageously sexy and suggestive “Be Our Guest” in the first half. That whole razzle-dazzle number is also the highlight of the show.
The Beast (Douer Sun) is far more adolescent and stroppy than fans of the original 1991 film may recognise, but it’s a stronger characterisation than a slightly under-energised Belle (Gloria Guo).
The direction (Rob Roth) and design (Stanley A. Meyer) steals from the best: you’ll recognise some of the choreography (Matt West), as well as the flickering candles and vast 19th century drapes from Phantom of the Opera; and the mob’s “Kill the Beast” number is literally costumed (Ann Hould-Ward), lit (Natasha Katz) and choreographed identically to the similar Act II sequence in Wicked.
However, there is some Disney magic (Jim Steinmeyer) to be enjoyed. The attack of the wolves is done with puppets (Basil Twist), but the puppeteers are ingeniously concealed, making the sequence all the more terrifying. The transformation of the haggard old beggar woman into a beautiful enchantress (uncredited) at the start elicits an amazing audience response, and does outshine the slightly tamer transformation of the Beast back into his human form at the finale.
The enormous 1,200-seater theatre is filled with kids laughing and having a great introduction to theatre, in a country that does not have many opportunities for the arts in general. However there’s no standing ovation at the end; somewhere along the way, this production has lost some of the magic of the original.
Tickets are available online from 135¥ (£15.50), with no booking fee.