Heartwarming, hilarious, spectacular and with a touch of poignancy, those are the elements which make Beauty and the Beast at the Alexandra Theatre in Bognor Regis guaranteed to get you into a festive mood.
Based on a centuries-old fairytale, it has all the flavour of a classic panto yet has a message that’s just as relevant today – that beauty is only skin deep.
Having enjoyed pantos at the theatre in previous years, I know how good they can be, but this year’s production outshines them all. It boasts a superb cast, brilliant staging, lots of lively audience participation and an excellent script with plenty of topical jokes.
But there’s another very touching element to it, the triumph of good over evil, the fact that love can conquer all. I had a lump in my throat when the Beast, played by Titus Rowe, displayed his anguish at the grotesque creature he had become, thanks to the curse inflicted on him by a fairy horrified by his arrogance and cruelty.
His fate hangs in the balance. Unless he can learn to love and to earn the love of the beautiful Belle before the last petal falls from a red rose, he too will wither and die.
Belle is played beautifully by Amy Burrows and the tender scenes between her and the Beast are particularly poignant. In the end, of course, in true panto style, love prevails and her devotion transforms him back to the handsome prince he once was, but now with a loving nature.
These two main characters could not ask for a stronger and more talented cast to help them bring the fairytale to life. There’s the chirpy and endearing Mrs Potts (Vicky Edwards) and the charming Fairy Go-Go (Kate Richards) who weave the story together. Then there’s the hilarious French Franc (Chris Coxon) and the wicked Clarence Casanova (Riley Clark).
The Dame is always a key panto character and wow, Dame Dolly Dolittle (Robert Squire) is one of the best I have ever seen. He is absolutely brilliant, almost stealing the show in every scene he appears in. And it’s hard to believe how he manages to cope with the lightning changes between one outrageous costume after another.
One of the highlights of the show is when the Dame, Franc , Fairy Go-Go and Clarence stage an amazing version of the Twelve Days of Christmas. It develops into total, truly hilarious mayhem, with the players obviously enjoying it as much as the audience.
The staging is superb from start to finish and the spectacular scenes are a tribute to the singing and dancing of the Lisa Jayne senior dancers and juveniles. The adorable juveniles are fabulous and enormously appealing, especially when they do the Monster Mash, and the cancan performed by the seniors, just 15 years old, is stunning. Equally appealing are the marvellous Mini Maids.
Beauty and the Beast will delight all ages and it really is a show not to be missed, a magical treat for all the family. It continues at the Alexandra Theatre until January 2.
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