There was a feeling of magic in the air from the moment we walked through the gates when, as if on cue, the roar of the lions filled the air, the Beast had acknowledged our arrival.

Beauty and the Beast
Melbourne Zoo Sunday 26 January, 2014.

Australia day, I couldn’t have imagined a better way to spend it than watching some of this country’s most sought after performers, in a Disney show, at the Melbourne Zoo on a balmy summer night. And that’s exactly what I did.

There was a feeling of magic in the air from the moment we walked through the gates when, as if on cue, the roar of the lions filled the air, the Beast had acknowledged our arrival.

We had only just found our patch of grass, the show hadn’t yet started and I was seeing multiple Belle’s and not due to the beverages they had on offer at the bars. Every little Princess had dressed as either Belle, their favourite character or wore their best animal onesie and what better place for it than at the zoo. But whether you were a little Princess for the evening, or a more sophisticated King or Queen, you couldn’t help reminiscing on when Beauty and the Beast first entered your life.

I went backstage before the show to find that it was buzzing. After chatting with some of the cast and the director of Beauty and the Beast, Grace Barnes, it seemed they could hardly believe it was almost show time. After all, they had only started rehearsing two weeks ago. I left them to get show ready and made my way back to our spot on the grass. Although it was evening, the sun still had a glorious kick in it as we sat waiting, listening to people laughing, eating and drinking amidst the sounds of the animals, as the zoo itself re opened for all to roam. It was all happening, there was face painting, photographs being taken in the Beastly setting of the castle and lots of little pop up stalls to browse at.

Before we knew it, it was show time. As the overture commenced, the audience cheered and as the music of ‘Belle’ began to chime, two butterflies flew across the front of the stage as if choreographed. I could hardly believe my eyes. We were living and breathing Disney. It was ridiculous and by ridiculous I mean fabulous.

Little did we know we were in for more than we bargained for. As mentioned the show has had a short rehearsal period commencing on 13th of January, although you wouldn’t know it. We were expecting a concert, stand and sing show. It was however, a complete show. Costumes, Lighting, fabulous choreography and staged direction added to the already stand alone talent of the cast vocals and sublime instruments.

The cast didn’t disappoint, bringing our favourite characters to life whilst adding their own spunk. We had officially entered the biz bliss with a star studded cast, including David Harris (Beast), Patrice Tipoki (Belle) Nancye Hayes OAM (Mrs Potts), Glenn Hill (Lumière), Teagan Wouters (Babette), Adrian Li Donni (Le Fou), Anne Wood (Wardrobe) and John Wood (Cogsworth). Unfortunately, Rob Mills had to step down from his role of Gaston due to illness but we were by no means disappointed with his replacement, Nelson Gardner. Not to mention being Australia Day, we were treated to the national anthem by non other than Australia’s sweetheart of Music Theatre, Lucy Durack.

I met with some of the cast at interval and they were elated. While we were discussing how magical the show was, they were discussing how brilliant the audience were. They were exchanging a photo of a little Belle in the audience, who happened to be sitting next to us. She was putting on a show of her own and just goes to show how taken away we were by the performances, so much so we all wanted to be a part of it, especially little Belle.

It was wonderful to see the event supporting new emerging artists. The ensemble included students and graduates from VCA, WAAPA, Jason Coleman’s Ministry of Dance as well as State School Spectacular past and present students to name a few. All who had donated their time for the love of it and why wouldn’t you?

The marvelous man behind it all, Adam John Lowe welcomed and thanked the audience for being there prior to the show and reminded us that whilst we were in for a treat, it has all been to raise money for the Melbourne Zoo Predator Learning Centre and the ANZ Trustees Foundation: Rob Guest Endowment for emerging talent in Musical Theatre. He thanked the tireless effort of the team behind putting the show on. This of course included Director Grace Barnes, Musical Director Luke Hunter and Choreographer Jason Coleman, who got the crowd amped up before the show.

The concert truly was a magical event and a happy ever after to a glorious Australia Day. I only wish it was an extended season for more to enjoy.

Patrice Tipoki (Belle) and Davis Harris (Beast) with Kathleen Amarant.