Panto review: Beauty and the Beast in Stevenage

IF you’re expecting talking crockery and a candlestick in this year’s Stevenage pantomime you’ll be waiting awhile, but there is a giant elephant and a flying scene to entertain instead.

Beauty and the Beast means different things to different people but the 1991 Disney film version - complete with Mrs Potts and Lumiere - is never far from the mind.

Jordon Productions, behind the Gordon Craig Theatre panto for the second year running, has put its own spin on the French fairytale which nods at the 18th century original.

All the traditional pantomime elements are there - tongue twisting verse, sing alongs with unseen ghosts and a happy ever after ending - but clever quips and a strong cast make it great entertainment for children and, dare I say it, adults alike.

Bernie Nolan is easy to boo cast as the wicked witch Malevolent, while showing off her vocal talent with two solo numbers, one song choice perhaps more inevitable than the other.

Fighting her corner for good is the likeable Fairy Formidable Leanne Jones, whose French tongue guides us through the trials of Beauty Rachel Jerram, the perfect heroine, inside and out.

Austin Powers-esque Prince Gallant is so ridiculous Simon Pontin’s character is bound to entertain, before his table-manners are tested as a beast. The ‘soaring’ conclusion to the show as he wins Beauty over and returns to a more modest self is quite spectacular too.

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Holding everything together though is returning duo Paul Laidlaw and Chris Clarkson, whose mother and son roles as Dame Derriere and Potty Pierre leave the audience ‘oui oui-ing’ in the aisles. Expect plate smashing, elephant riding, tom foolery and audience interaction aplenty.

And if you haven’t fallen for Stevenage’s favourite Dame in the last 25 years or aren’t a fan of sparkly dresses, then don’t sit near the front.

If it’s not your first Stevenage panto then this year’s offering may hold few surprises but that’s no bad thing, as complemented with witty one-liners, modern tweaks and impressive sets it once again hits the right note. And Disney fans hold no fear - there’s even dancing cutlery too.

Beauty and the Beast runs at the theatre until Sunday, January 22, including morning, afternoon and evening shows.

Tickets range from �10.75 for school shows to �21.50. For the full list of performances or to book visit www.gordon-craig.co.uk or call 01438 894802.

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