Beauty and the Beast - Pantomime

Date 19th January 2024
Society Friendship Theatre Company Llanelli
Venue Ffwrnes Theatre, Llanelli
Type of Production Pantomime
Director Dean Verbeeck
Musical Director Robert Jenkins - Musical Supervisor – Andrew Harries
Choreographer Melanie Sullivan
Written By Dean Verbeeck

Report

Author: Matt Hampson

Another year and another great panto from Friendship Theatre Group in Llanelli. I have to say this certainly seems to be the event the public wait for as it has been supported so well across the 2 ½ week run. Pantomime is a unique theatrical form and a delightful combination of so many elements that it often works successfully with an audience when only some of those elements are present, but when they are all present, it is magnificent entertainment for the whole family. Those elements are a spectacular setting, a man dressed as a woman with a sprinkling of adult innuendo, a battle between good and evil, a selection of musical choices that appeal to all age groups and some traditional pantomime business.

Dean Verbeeck was once again at the helm as Writer and Director, but due to unforeseen circumstances, donned his dresses as Dame Candy Floss. I am never let down by Dean in all facets of his skill set. As an actor, writer and director he always comes out on top and this pantomime was no different. Beauty and the Beast is a tough one! You must stay true to the story line whilst staying away from the Disney writing and that is not easy. Music choices were excellent, current and therefore the young audiences can relate, sing a long and makes it much more enjoyable for them.

Sean Davies-Jaynes has a huge fan club! At least the million screams of SEAN from behind me makes it seem that way. I am not surprised though as Sean has a brilliant relationship with this audience. It is exhausting watching him on stage and how he keeps that energy all night, across every show in 2 ½ weeks is impressive. Dean writes very well for Sean, but the delivery is crucial and Sean is spot on with this all night.

Elysia Coates (Belle) is a name I am going to remember! Having not seen her in anything before, I was very impressed with her stage presence and vocals. Such a gorgeous tone to her voice and could have (in my opinion) been used a bit more across the performance. Although, this is easy said than done in panto.

Tick and Tock played by Daniella Difede and Nathan WR were the perfect sidekicks! I am not used to Danielle playing this sort of role, but she was perfectly cast. Historically played by a male (Lumiere), Daniella has such a unique way of holding a stage and although she is very experienced it would have been very easy to come across in the wrong way but she didn’t…at all. Nathans comedy timing was spot on and I chuckled constantly at his little stage shuffles whilst wearing that clock. They worked so well as a pair and never once did they do too much or too little.

Greg Arthur as The Beast / Phillipe was a great casting. Although this is a love story, the audience must feel fear when meeting the Beast for the first time. I think this was achieved when children around me gasped and grabbed the nearest hand of their parents! Vocally Greg is perfect and delivered his solo - Out There from Hunchback with such professionalism. I felt the changes in the beast as he realises his love for Belle and the quirky one liners added just enough comedy, delivered with perfection.

Mark Warren who played Renee (Belle’s Father) was just a joy to watch. His mannerism, stage presence and general character was perfect. Great Job! Gustave, played by Ian Roach had that “Gaston” character just right. Love to hate I guess would be one way of describing this. His mannerisms, arrogance and self-love came across with a sleezy ease. This is NOT easy to do and can be too much at times, but Ian gave just enough to get the audience on side. Yes, he gets booed but really, Gustave is a loveable rogue!

Fairy Rose and The Enchantress, played by Chardonnay Fuge and Rhian-Lynne Lewis had just enough stage time! Great song choices and script work by Dean. I liked how the Enchantress was used as the baddie but actually we warmed to her very quickly and Rhian-Lynne has some serious vocal talent, much like Chardonnay. Very well cast additions, well done. There was a lovely cameo from Luke Messaggiero as The Wolf and he also understudied roles as well. I hope he gets a shot at playing a main role during the run.

The Dancers were on top form in this panto. Great choreography from Melanie Sullivan, which for me was one of the highlights of this pantomime. A mix of senior and junior dance teams gave just enough balance for the larger numbers. It really is so nice to see choreography so tight as so often this can fall short on expectation.

Technically, the show was very good. The set from Scenic Projects filled the stage with ease and having such technical ability at the Ffwrnes, made the scene changes seamless. This really makes the experience for the customer more professional. Congratulations to all the technical crew on this production – unsung heroes! The projections worked well, along with stunning lighting and sound design. The Band, under the direction of Andrew Harries were small but mighty! There were a few moments when the band were louder than the cast but this is easily rectified from front of house and was better in the second half.

Friendship Theatre Group have been bringing high quality Panto to Llanelli for years and may this continue. They are still, in my opinion one of the leading companies in Wales when it comes to Panto season, with no expense spared, packed houses and a genuine love for what they do. Thank you for asking me once again and I am very much looking forward to 2025!