Beauty and the Beast by Alan P Frayne
|Date||25th January 2020|
|Society||Easy Street Theatre Co|
|Venue||The Library Theatre Sheffield|
|Type of Production||Pantomime|
|Musical Director||Gareth Lloyd|
|Assistant Producer||Dennis Wallis|
Author: Jo Sykes
A super pantomime production by this young, but experienced group. Sallianne Foster-Major as Producer/Director had led the production team and performers to provide a great evening’s entertainment. Singing to backing tracks the young people had been supported by Musical Director, Gareth Lloyd and sang with great voice in the ensemble numbers with some excellent solos. It was a large company and Choreographer, Amanda Tyas, made good use of the performance space to allow the performers to demonstrate their dancing ability. I particularly enjoyed the fabulous high-energy, high-kicking Can Can with some great acrobatics by the dancers and a cartwheeling Dame!
Throughout the show there was excellent characterisation by both principals and the enthusiastic ensemble with the strong cast working well together. The entertaining opening set the scene for a pantomime and allowed some of the younger cast members to hold the stage – a super opportunity which worked well. Followed by the entrance of Flora, the fairy (Alecia Whitworth) who sang two beautiful solos. Her evil counterpart was Belladonna (Carmen Mooney) was a very elegant, but clearly dangerous character who interacted well with the audience. Belle was played by Emily Axe who cut just the right balance of ‘princess to be’ and feisty young heroine. The Prince/Beast, Charlie Bower, had a strong voice and wonderful demeanour in this role of the terrifying Beast with whom the audience need to empathise. The very humorous role of Gustave was played by Joel Priest and I loved his macho representations. The tribute to George Michael, with the support of the chorus and other cast members, was very well done and no doubt appealed to members of the audience (like me) of a certain age – definitely an inspired moment of direction and one of the highlights for me.
This great script took the traditional story of Beauty and the Beast and gave it an entertaining pantomime spin, including the introduction of two comic characters of Marcel (Ben Rossiter) and Monique (Poppy Sefton) who both played their roles in the Beauty Salon with fabulous passion and comic aplomb. There were great performances from Fred Foster-Major as Alphonse, Dan Rossister as a very comical Jacques and Charlotte McDowell as Monsieur Le Fou.
I must mention the three very mature performances by Kadie Akers (Whitney), Callie Lou Wallis (Britney) and Rhys Quinn (Madame Fifi). Whitney and Britney are described by the script writer as ‘definitely not pantomime Ugly Sisters’ and Kadie and Callie carried this off fabulously. At a young age to play a role which ridicules your self and your appearance (all whilst wearing 6 inch heals) is very challenging and these two young actors did a brilliant job of creating characters which the audience loved to hate. The role of the Dame is integral to a pantomime and Rhys was wonderful – he didn’t try to feminise the role he was a ‘bloke dressed in a dress’ and held the production together with his comic timing and entertaining engagement with the audience – the roars of laughter from the auditorium suggest a great future for this young man.
The costumes were traditionally ‘pantomime’ and very appropriate for the production – I particularly liked the capes enhanced by lights which the dancers used to great effect. The set was simple to suite the venue and was supported by use of light and smoke to add atmosphere. There was limited use of microphones and this challenged the young people to project which they did very well and is a great skill to develop.
The warm welcome you receive when you arrive at an Easy Street production says much about the culture of this friendly, hardworking group. It is no surprise that they were awarded ‘Best Youth Theatre in Yorkshire and Humber’ in 2019 as they have an inclusive and supportive approach that allows young people to grow as performers, team players and members of a community – picking up a range of skills and experiences that will not only support them on stage, but in whatever life path they choose.
Congratulations to everyone involved – a really fun-filled production.