Beauty and the Beast is one of the less obvious pantomimes, so it is refreshing to see it at this time of year. You may be familiar with the story from the Disney cartoon but to see it acted out on stage takes it to another level. Beauty and the beast is at Stantonbury Theatre for this season’s pantomime and it’s a fabulous choice.
The story is one of a beautiful young girl who voluntarily gives herself up to be a prisoner in a Beast’s castle in exchange to free her father. Kind and independent, she finds she isn’t as scared of the Beast as she first was and starts to fall in love with him. Beauty is, as her name suggests, beautiful but also has a charming innocence about her. Isabelle Pardoe is perfect as Beauty and has become quite assertive of pushing away unwanted attention. The majority of that unwanted attention is coming from Count George. There is no doubt about it, Count George loves himself, so much so that he carries a mirror with him wherever he goes to check he is still handsome. This swashbuckling heartthrob is played by Oliver Longstaff. Oliver gives George that arrogant air without being a baddie that we really don’t like. I met with Oliver afterwards and I can vouch that all those muscles are real. Certainly, something for the ladies.
Silly Simon is played by Toby Boutall and he is multi-talented. Its one thing to act, dance and sing, but to be able to bring up on stage shy children and get them to confidently say anything into the microphone is another talent entirely. Toby did this with ease, not only having the audience in the palm of his hands but joking with tiny children about having only horned animals in their house when the twins on stage picked a unicorn and a Rhino. CBBC will be fighting to get their hands on Toby with such skills.
Dame Dottie is played by Simon Rhys-Jones and there is no doubt about it – she steals the show. Her outfits are stupendous; fried eggs on one, Union Jack on another. There were so many changes I don’t know how she kept up with it all but astounding none-the-less. Simon is a fantastic Dame, not only does he look the part, but he can make the audience laugh. My favourite joke was that Dame Dottie had been married 16 times. 4 better, 4 worse, 4 richer and 4 poorer. Very clever and it’s good to have something for the adults in the audience as panto isn’t just for kids, it’s for everyone. I also liked the one about Judi Bench – but when the audience didn’t laugh that much, Dame Dottie took it in her stride and moved on. A real professional. Beast is played by Matthew Mcloughlin. He is quite scary and especially with his horns and hair some younger children could find him frightening. However, Matthew gives him a heart and when he sings, I Dreamed A Dream, it was very emotional. A Beast with a heart.
The choice of songs is the best I have heard in a pantomime. There is something for everyone and they all fit the story. Songs include Can’t Stop The Feeling, Baby It’s Cold Outside, Consider Yourself, I Dreamed A Dream and Hairspray’s The Nicest Kids In Town. The dancers are great and the choreography is to a very high standard. I enjoyed the idea of the roses slowly dying shown on a visual platform. It made the story clear as to where we were.
This goes to show you don’t need huge budgets to put on a good production – its about talent, a passion for pantomines and good interaction with the audience. This panto has all of this. With a guest appearance from Olaf from Frozen, what more could you want this panto season?
Beauty and the Beast is playing at Stantonbury Theatre until 29 December. Tickets available here