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Theatre Review: Beauty and the Beast

13 December 17 words: Adrian Reynolds

Thigh-slappingly good panto...

Beauty and the Beast at the Theatre Royal

The Beast (Ben Richards) and Belle (Naomi Slights) - photo by Tracey Whitefoot

Beauty And The Beast serves up laughs, song and dance, and low and high tech spectacle.

There’s no better way to enjoy panto as an adult than in the company of a child, and 4 year old Amelia went through a whole range of emotions from laughter, tears, terror, and wide-eyed delight as she took in her first experience of theatre.

I’m not aware of Beauty And The Beast as a traditional panto, but it’s a story that many tots will have seen umpteen times on DVD, which is as good an excuse as any for a stage version. From the opening, the show uses the full range of tricks theatre has at its disposal, and that’s a good tactic. A live show offers an immediacy and presence that Disney movies can’t compete with, so kudos to director Andrew Ryan and his team for using everything Theatre Royal has to offer in the service of non-stop razzle-dazzle.

Belle (Naomi Slights) and company

Belle (Naomi Slights) and company - photo by Tracey Whitefoot

About the only thing I didn’t see in use was a trapdoor. There is however an abundance of dry ice, stage sets, colourful costumes, and variously corny, cheesy, and sweet onstage antics to the music of a live band. Plus, less expected, there was a fabulous and enormous monster in the form of a Kraken, and plenty more beasties visible through 3D glasses, which are what made Amelia cry. Something to bear in mind – critturs launching themselves at younger kiddies can be disturbing.

Actually, if you want to look at the disturbing side of it all, have a think about the family dynamics of the show – as with so many pantos there’s an epically dysfunctional family at the heart of it all. But don’t worry…the good characters sure to find some sort of happiness by the end of the story.

Benny Blumenthal (Ben Nickless), Betty Blumenthal (Andrew Ryan) and company

Benny Blumenthal (Ben Nickless), Betty Blumenthal (Andrew Ryan) and company - photo by Tracey Whitefoot

There’s an epically over-the-top cast to ensure the ups and downs are delivered with rollercoaster enthusiasm, and it takes their faith in the kind of wonky jokes you’d expect to deliver a non-stop show that satisfies kids and adults alike. Impressionist Ben Nickless does a cracking job as the character the kids can get behind, and director Ryan is brilliant as Dame Betty Blumenthal – 100% gusto, a side-order of brio, topped with a Cornetto for good measure. Sherrie Hewson doesn’t match their energy, seemingly pitched to sitcom level rather than going gung-ho for panto, but at times her pace helps make things more human and pulls it back from staying at a constant 11.

From first to last it’s a joyful piece of razzmatazz with something for everyone. Enjoy. Amelia did.

Beauty And The Beast is at Nottingham's Theatre Royal from Saturday December 9 2017 to 24 January 2018.

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