BAZ BAMIGBOYE: Now be our guests, say Beauty and her Beast

BAZ BAMIGBOYE: Now be our guests, say Beauty and her Beast

Ever a surprise, Beauty And The Beast The Musical, based on the much-loved animated film which won two Oscars for its soaring score and title number, will tour the UK and Ireland, with stars new and old.

The Disney hierarchy in New York and London have cast Courtney Stapleton, 27, as Belle, the independent young woman (and bookworm) who discovers, in a tale as old as time, that she and the enchanted Beast can be more than just friends. 

Stapleton has previously appeared in Six, Dear Evan Hansen, Les Miserables, Mamma Mia! and Bat Out Of Hell.

Courtney Stapleton and Emmannuel Kojo who will be playing Beauty and the Beast

Emmanuel Kojo, a 29-year-old actor with an impressive bass baritone voice, will play the surly Beast, who must be guided by his bric-a-brac household staff — also languishing under the spell of a witch — before he can learn from Belle.

Kojo has been nominated twice in the Olivier Awards: for his performances as Joe in Showboat, and Jud Fry in Oklahoma!. And he was also in Twelfth Night at the National, and The Scottsboro Boys at the Young Vic.

Stage legend Angela Lansbury has been associated with Beauty And The Beast ever since composer Alan Menken and Howard Ashman (lyricist and executive producer of the original 1991 film) sent her a demo of the theme song, which went on to become a Broadway and Hollywood classic. 


Emmanuel Kojo, a 29-year-old actor with an impressive bass baritone voice, will play the surly Beast, who must be guided by his bric-a-brac household staff — also languishing under the spell of a witch — before he can learn from Belle

Perhaps as a symbol of how vital Disney considers this production to be, the theatrical dame, who is now 95, has been persuaded by Disney theatre president Thomas Schumacher to record a prologue for the show.

Pictured: Courtney Stapleton

In a joint Zoom call with the show’s two young leads (she speaking from Surrey, he from Chiswick), Courtney told me that as the first lockdown wound on, she considered leaving acting.

She and her partner, actress Eloise Davies, bought a Transit van to convert into an RV but it never got on the road, due to lack of funds.

‘I thought I was going to be one of those people it’s not going to happen for,’ Courtney admitted. ‘I don’t think it will feel real until I’m out there, in that ballgown.’

She was grateful to her mum for taking her and her sister Bethany to ballroom and Latin dancing competitions around the country when they were growing up. ‘They’ve been so supportive of this crazy choice I made,’ she said of her parents. ‘And now I’m going to be waltzing around with this guy!’

They laughed and pointed out that Belle and the Beast’s romantic dance will be naturally socially distanced… because her dress is 5ft wide. Kojo told me he thought the events of the past year had ‘made us all take a step back and just breathe’. While out of work, he started training and lost 4st — which allowed him to take up photographic modelling to help pay the bills.

Pictured: Emmannuel Kojo

The tour starts at the Bristol Hippodrome on August 25. It’s a trimmer production: sensitively overhauled with new sets, costumes and orchestrations; its lyrics given a ‘polish’.

Schumacher said the Be My Guest number will have an even bigger Busby Berkeley-style tap dance led by tap supremo Gavin Lee as Lumiere, the candelabra.

Folks will also notice a difference in Belle’s costume. ‘The apron has gone. It’s to signify that she’s not waiting on anybody. She’s her own person,’ said Courtney.

There’s nothing regular about the Sherlock Holmes played by Henry Lloyd-Hughes in The Irregulars, a top-trending series on Netflix.

His Holmes is a crack-head whose powers of deduction are reserved mainly for finding his next fix. ‘Yes, he’s drug-addled,’ the 35-year-old actor agreed. ‘He’s fallen.’

He said that he and the show’s writer Tom Bidwell had ‘deconstructed’ Arthur Conan Doyle’s legendary private detective for the thriller, which is packed with supernatural goings-on and jump-out-of-your-seat shocks.

There’s nothing regular about the Sherlock Holmes played by Henry Lloyd-Hughes in The Irregulars, a top-trending series on Netflix


His Holmes is a crack-head whose powers of deduction are reserved mainly for finding his next fix. ‘Yes, he’s drug-addled,’ the 35-year-old actor agreed. ‘He’s fallen’

The Irregulars is set in an apocalyptic Victorian London, where a rip in the fabric of time (stick with me) has allowed evil to seep into the city.

The Oscar-winning hair and make-up designer Lucy Sibbick covered Lloyd-Hughes’s body with tattoos and made his face pale and sallow, like a Sixties rocker on acid, to play the secretive sleuth. 

‘This is the Sherlock for right now,’ Lloyd-Hughes joked, ‘but it’s an accident, because Tom Bidwell didn’t know what the world would be like when he wrote it. Aren’t we all a little bit broken, because of the pandemic?’

The show is engrossing in large part because of the way Lloyd-Hughes’s ego-inflated Sherlock interacts with Dr Watson (Royce Pierreson) — and with the gang of street kids (led by Thaddea Graham and Darci Shaw, who play siblings Bea and Jessie) nicknamed The Irregulars.

The show is engrossing in large part because of the way Lloyd-Hughes’s ego-inflated Sherlock interacts with Dr Watson (Royce Pierreson) — and with the gang of street kids (led by Thaddea Graham and Darci Shaw (pictured), who play siblings Bea and Jessie) nicknamed The Irregulars

Some of the first season’s most poignant scenes involve Lloyd-Hughes and Shaw. ‘There’s a family and romantic conflict in his world,’ he told me cautiously, wary of giving away any spoilers.

I’ve long been a fan of Lloyd-Hughes; way before he popped up in The Inbetweeners and the movie version of Anna Karenina (and more recently, Indian Summers, Killing Eve and The English Game).

He was nominated for an outstanding newcomer honour in the 2010 Evening Standard Theatre Awards for performances in Posh at the Royal Court, and Rope at the Almeida.

Stills from The Irregulars showing Sheila Atim and Darci Shaw

He was nominated for an outstanding newcomer honour in the 2010 Evening Standard Theatre Awards for performances in Posh at the Royal Court, and Rope at the Almeida

That creative streak came in handy when he inherited cricket outfitters N.E. Blake from his grandmother. The firm, founded by his great-grandfather, specialises in heritage sportswear and when I dial in on Zoom, he’s actually busy finishing off an order for a client. ‘This is my life,’ he said, mock seriously. ‘Customer service.’

That creative streak came in handy when he inherited cricket outfitters N.E. Blake from his grandmother. The firm was founded by his great grandfather, and specialises in heritage sportswear, celebrating the great players of the past. Their range includes the ‘Brian Close’ and ‘Clive Lloyd’ jumpers; and the ‘Len Hutton’ trousers (high waisted and double pleated).

When I dial in on Zoom, he’s actually busy finishing off an order for a client (the company has customers as far away as Seoul). ‘This is my life,’ he said, mock seriously. ‘Customer service.’

Aquaman, in the shape of Jason Momoa, the 6ft 4in he-man of Hawaiian descent, is heading to Dublin and London next month

Clear the decks! Aquaman, in the shape of Jason Momoa, the 6ft 4in he-man of Hawaiian descent, is heading to Dublin and London next month to film scenes for the sequel to 2018’s surprise hit Justice League spin-off.

Expect Amber Heard and Nicole Kidman to join Momoa for more oceanic adventures. 

Admittedly, the Aquaman of three years ago was nonsense. But there was enjoyment to be had, too, watching pure popcorn baloney up there on an enormous cinema screen.

Admittedly, the Aquaman of three years ago was nonsense. But there was enjoyment to be had, too, watching pure popcorn baloney up there on an enormous cinema screen

Pictured: Jason Momoa

That goes to the heart of what Frances McDormand said during her acceptance speech for Best Actress at the Oscars (an excruciating ceremony) about watching movies — hers and others’ — ‘on the largest screen possible’. 

Though Aquaman probably wasn’t uppermost in her mind.

Joining the ranks of screen queens is Stella Gonet, who portrays Elizabeth II in Pablo Larrain’s much-anticipated film Spencer, about a winter in the life of Princess Diana

Joining the ranks of screen queens is Stella Gonet, who portrays Elizabeth II in Pablo Larrain’s much-anticipated film Spencer, about a winter in the life of Princess Diana. 

The picture, created around Kristen Stewart’s portrait of the late princess, is likely to have a world premiere at one of the autumn film festivals.

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