Show: Beauty and the Beast Pantomime
Location: Floral Pavilion Theatre, New Brighton
Date: Saturday, December 4
Age Rating: 3+
Performers: Olivia Birchenough, Shaun Dalton, Melanie Walters, Quinn Patrick, Phil Atkinson, Sean Jones, David Alcock, Jessica Johnson
Production Company: UK Productions LTD
Writer: Jon Monie
Director: Andrew Margerison
Musical Director: George Strickland
On arrival at the theatre, the smell of popcorn, coloured lights and chatter of excited children on a cold, dark December evening was a likely indicator that it’s Panto season!
The Floral Pavilion looked the part, with colourful Beauty and the Beast artwork of the cursed castle and life-size displays in the theatre entrance. There was also a fairy castle display of sweets, goodies and flashing roses that helped everyone get into the Pantomime spirit.
The Beauty and the Beast show, brought to the stage by UK Productions Ltd was planned for last year, but was postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Fairy Bon Bon, (Gavin & Stacey’s Melanie Walters) opened the show with a puff of smoke, sparkles and provided a quick overview of the story so far. The children in the audience were a little quiet and stared wide eyed. We heard the first ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ from the front rows.
We were engaged further by the arrival of Polly La Plonk, played confidently by ‘Dame’ Quinn Patrick who has over 20 years’ experience of pantos. (In my opinion the star of the show.) She was accompanied by cheeky chappy son Louis La Plonk, comic Sean Jones. They were both stuck in the cursed castle, staff of the Beast who was under the spell of an evil enchantress. The banter between them flowed effortlessly and although there was a lot of dialogue, the adults appreciated most of the corny jokes and the children didn’t lose interest.
Belle and Hugo
We were pleasantly surprised by the vocal ability of the lead players. In particular, Belle (Olivia Birchenough), particularly her duets later with the Beast.
The Panto had a French theme. Back in Belle’s home village of Camembert (near to the River Merci – geddit?) we met the baddy, Hugo Pompidou (Phil Atkinson). He was appropriately full of himself with admirable guns and attractive boots. Sadly, he came across as quite a likeable chap, very smiley and despite telling the kids to ‘shut up’, they never really got into booing him! He’s very keen on Belle but his interest is ignored and his proposal refused.
Belle’s Father Clement, (David Alcock) leads her to the castle after he goes missing. Belle agrees to take the place of her Father when he is taken prisoner at the cursed castle and her relationship with her captor, the Beast begins.
As mentioned, the first half of the panto seemed a little drawn out. But the second half seemed much more energised. It could have been the E numbers from all the sweets kicking in because the children were having a ball, clapping, booing and shouting out to order.
Unfortunately, nearing the crucial moment when Belle is about to hook up with the Beast a stagehand appeared to apologise to the audience that there was a technical problem. The show was halted for at least 10 minutes. It was getting quite late by then for little ones, around 9.15 pm but to be fair, hardly anyone left the theatre.
This was a good move because we were then treated to a well-choreographed scrap between the Beast and Hugo. The Beast won – obvs! Hugo was despatched to the moat. There was a declaration of love and a proposal from Belle. This was reciprocated by the Beast and by the magic of special effects, he was transformed to the handsome Prince.
The wedding finale was lots of fun. More amazing costumes and feel good dancing. Did I mention the accompanying dancers? They were very accomplished and complemented the show along with providing back-up vocals. The children stood up, clapped, sang and danced.
It was a little alarming that mask wearing didn’t appear to be very popular with even the older members of the audience. However, it was lovely to see the performers back on stage in Panto. They provided so much enjoyment to both little and large members of the audience.
Overall, combining the impressive dance routines, fun, singing, colourful sets and costumes along with reasonably priced tickets, this Beauty and the Beast Panto is the perfect festive treat.
Overall Rating: 8/10 Great Fun!
Beauty and the Beast Pantomime is on at the Floral Pavilion until 2 January 2022