Beauty and the Beast, (Pantomime)
30th December 2017
Dereham Memorial Hall
Type of Production
Author: Terry Rymer
Four children sat next to me with their Nan! (Ages 12 to 3 years !)…their ‘reviews!’…
Alfie, “ Interesting! It was good, cool! ” Joselean, “Really really good!”. Tommy, “Brilliant !” And Rene-Mae (a precocious 3 y o!) clapped, laughed and went on stage at the end (from upstairs!). Need I say more…ok they settled for the slapstick scene as their favourite…and it was slick and slippery with some new angles, not least a flying trapeze gag for Louis eventually dumping him in a refuse tro
This was ‘Party Panto’ at its best with a very traditional script, which appeared to be an amalgam of perhaps the best bits from two or three previous ‘home written’ scripts? Perhaps that was why it was a trifle long…but no matter, the first act action was fast and furious even if the exceptionally funny obnoxious ‘Twins’, Char (Katie McGhee) and Donnay (Karen Bates) did give us the impression that we were watching Cinderella! They were superb throughout with some up dated joke lines and excellent timing, assisted by their ‘doting’ Father Monsieur Faux Pas (Kevin Reeve) as he seemed to favour his third daughter Belle (Brodie Elgood) who was of course the main stay of the piece with the ‘difficult’ task of convincing us she would fall in love with the Beast… but of course we knew she would! She was confident and showed strong vocals for her solo numbers. Here to some extent she was let down by the story as the emotional journey she would endure was sacrificed to incorporate the more traditional aspects of panto. We did have some strong emotion when we eventually met the Beast briefly at the end of act 1. (See later).
The Good versus evil panto ethos was well conveyed from the outset with Fairy Tinkle (Charlotte Bunting) waving her wand with aplomb and giving us hope that she could outwit the callous ‘savage’ Sorceress Rosalind (Genevieve Plunkett), who clearly relished her baddie role and really gave a performance suitably designed to elicit copious booing, she was not disappointed… Oh how we love a ‘good’ baddie and she was ‘wicked’!
Now every panto needs a crowd pleasing ‘silly Billy’ type to engage the variety of audiences that come to these annual extravaganzas! So enter the irrepressible Louis (Declan Matwij) with a naturally funny and endearing demeanour to really keep us ‘on side’ with his quick witted repartee and Franglais “Bon jour” and our joyous response of course, “Oui oui! “. He was great! The kids loved him… we all did!
Oh, and we needed a handsome Prince who Rosalind could turn into an ugly Beast…Here we had what I feel was a dramatic duplicity, as Prince Joli (Ollie Ludman)…loved his ‘I’m too Sexy’ number… He was to become our hero, but was displaced by A N Other, as the Beast (Mark Wells) who was reasonably hideous, and even with vocals strained, clearly had the voice to render the iconic number ‘A Girl Like You’. The transformation was well enough ‘hidden’ during the moving dance routine and song ‘A Kiss From A Rose’, as Prince Joli remerged to delight Belle, who at first joked she preferred the Beast ! But of course they married and baddie Rosalind was seen to eat humble pie after her great delivery solo ‘Bad Romance’ showed her vocal prowess! ….
...What about a dame I hear you say! Well, not a show to really ‘showcase’ a Dame, but as Louis’ Mother, Madame Mardi-Gras (Nick Bird) clearly needed no introduction, and no encouragement, as his experience allowed him the luxury of performing ‘in the frock’ with some style…his frocks were occasionally less flamboyant than expected but his performance made up for that! But then you can’t keep an ‘old pro’ down…perhaps I prefer him as his silly comic baddie! But he is always great! It’s a slippery slope…and thanks for the curtsy!
We had a mixed age ensemble with great style and energy, which so helps a show hit the spot. They really worked hard and relished their moments in the spotlight, with lively numbers old and new! Dance numbers were well put together with some tip top tapping and something for young and old alike. Vocals were strong (allowances for some voice strain after colds etc were not really too noticeable and certainly did not spoil the enjoyment.). A particular accolade for young ‘Butler Pierre’ to the Beast, (Thomas Wilson-Gotobed), who yet again showed his youthful exuberance and style outwith his years, as he gave us an amusing and insightful performance, and he was clearly an audience favourite with his ‘table topping’ rendition of ‘Eat It’. Not only is he one to watch…he is already there!
I must also congratulate the Pit duo of MD Michael Stoker and Mitch Hill whose superb upbeat musicality with live and synchronised support (even singing as required!) was one reason for this show to stand out from the ordinary…there were old songs and new numbers all given a new twist, plus sound and underscore for the atmospheric scenes and sensitive percussion where needed!
All in all this was a great evenings entertainment for all ages, and my three ‘young reviewers’ left the Theatre perhaps having ‘the seed sewn’, and full of praise for what was probably their first truly live show ( some had been last year too!)…they thought it was great and so did the rest of us! Well done!