Beauty and the Beast

Date 18th January 2020
Society Ellesmere Port Original Pantomime Company
Venue Civic Hall Ellesmere Port
Type of Production Pantomime
Director Gail Roberts
Musical Director Carley Dallen
Choreographer Lucy& Sue Hickman
Producer Gail Roberts

Report

Author: Joanne Rymer

Beauty and the Beast

Ellesmere Port Original Pantomime Company

Civic Hall Ellesmere Port

18/1/2020

You can’t go wrong with the Ellesmere Port Original Pantomime Company (E.P.O.P.C).  which is less a show and more an institution. The panto has the same endearing combination of local jokes, unembarrassed sentimentality and crowd pleasing sing-a-longs that keeps the E.P.O.P.C. panto up on the seasonal must see calendar. There are no celebrities here (at least, not of the kind that anyone outside the town would recognise). Its safeness and reliability are part of its charm and this production has charm in spades.

The story is as old as time. No twists, just a classic love story, set against the backdrop of a small town and a dark, yet enchanted castle in the middle of a spooky wood. We have a good Fairy and an evil witch.  Beauty and the Beast is the classic story of a young woman (Belle) in a provincial town, and the Beast who is really a Prince under a spell.  The spell itself is simple enough, the young prince (Mabel Letman) is cursed by a wicked witch and takes on the appearance of a beast (Chris Pacitti) whose only hope of breaking the spell is to earn the love of a young woman. Great performances from two talented actors. If the Prince/ Beast can learn to love and be loved, the curse will end and he will be transformed to his former self. But time is running out. If the Beast does not learn his lesson soon, he will be doomed for all eternity. We all watched with great anticipation the wilting Rose.  Great performances from two talented actors.

Right from the off, the stage sparkled with energy and joviality, as the young cast belted out fabulous song and dance numbers. It is heart-warming to see such talent coming through the ranks, the junior/ adult dancers were tremendous so enthusiastic, I could see huge grins on their faces enjoying every minute. Congratulations to Lucy and Sue Hickman who teased the very best performances from a very talented chorus.

The audience are introduced to the village of Petit Pain where the bakery owned by Belle’s father Mr Baguette played with great sensitivity by Andy Nickson takes pride of place. The bakery employees Ian Devereux-Roberts plays Crouton, he was hilarious, great comic timing. Brilliant interaction with the audience this was a very accomplished performance. Well done, Ian.

Every good panto needs a Dame, we had the astonishing Dolly Donut (Bakery Chef) played magnificently by Rob Stevens. Who is undoubtedly a local celebrity, his performance was truly professional, as for his/her costumes absolutely stunning. Rob was the panto professional which at times was noticeable. However a fine performance from Rob.

 

Belle, portrayed by Mel Hughes, has great presence, a great spoken singing voice.  Mel captures the innocent and grace of the character coming into her own as the show progresses. Well done Mel. Belle has an admirer Gustave played brilliantly by Anna Hawley, she was suitably shady and threatening. Anna took total command of this character, great stage presence, she had the audience almost booing her at times, terrific performance.

Belle’s two sisters, Hayley Dale as Canderel and Sheryl Dean Nutella played their respective roles beautifully, perfectly cast comic duo.  Their entrance from the back of the auditorium really worked well, they could be heard throughout the theatre, and the audience loved these two talented actors. As for our spell makers: Fairy Rose played with style by Sam Greenhill, believing that good will conquer evil, fine performance.

Nasty villainous Witch Thorn was played absolutely right by Caireen Candlin. She stole every scene she was in, knew how to move and react as a Panto baddie. I would love to see her again in another villainous role, she would make an ideal Wicked Stepmother in Cinderella.

The lighting and sound did exactly what it said on the tin and was very effective, thanks to Dave Bosely (lighting) Daniel McAllister (sound) great job.

 Costumes were fabulous thanks to Gail Roberts, Marjorie Cooper and Carol Nickson. Spooky Wood was a particular special scene, the young chorus looks wondeful.   Well done.

All Pantos have to have a happy ending. When the Beast takes Belle's dad prisoner after finding him walking around in the beast's castle, Belle offers to take her ill dad's place as his prisoner. With help from the Beast's staff, headed by Garcon, beautifully played by Viv Henson, good comic timing here, she got the very best from this character. Belle builds a relationship with her captor and eventually falls in love with him. The spell is broken.

 

Beauty & the Beast is exactly what a panto should be good clean fun, with plenty of opportunities to practice your “oh no he didn’t” and “he’s behind you” skills, with lots and lots of laughs. .Director Gail Roberts obviously had her plan for this panto, she executed it with great style. The atmosphere creates was contagious. The song and dance routines perfectly timed and executed, really loved “the sausage sing”, a panto highlight for me. Praise goes to Choreographer Carley Dallen for her inspiring musical direction. Great job.

 

 

 In short, E.P .O.P.C‘s Beauty and the Beast is exactly what good community theatre should be. This is a vibrant and joyous production. E.P.O.P.C. have certainly captured the magical qualities a panto needs to have which is fun for the entire family. This Society make you feel like you are part of their extended family throughout the night. As some of the dancers entered the theatre from the back, it made for one big, inclusive party.

 

This was a great evening's entertainment from a society that is undoubtedly giving a great many people a great deal of enjoyment, on both sides of the curtain.

 

Thank you for a wonderful evening’s fun. I hope to see you next year

 

 

Joanne Rymer

NODA