A Tale old as time but a brand-new pantomime.
Whixley Players have done it again and delivered a beautiful but also very funny rendition of a traditional story of love, hope and beauty with this year’s production of Beauty and the Beast.
This year the panto centres around beautiful Bella, played by Samantha Bell who has the beauty of a rose and voice as sweet as songbirds as demonstrated with some truly enchanting songs throughout the performance. Bella agrees to live with the terrifying Beast in exchanged for her father’s life, played by the lovable Leslie Couldwell, who has done the beast a great wrong by picking one of the Beast’s enchanted roses when he sought refuge from the storm and stayed the night at Whixley Castle.
The Beast is played by a very convincing James Andersson, who manages to eventually win the hearts of the audience with a beautiful rendition of ‘If I can’t love her’ leaving not a dry eye in the house. He plays a troubled prince who has been placed under an evil spell for many years. If he can learn to love and be loved in return, then hopefully the spell will be broken, and he will return to his true self.
Jonathan Hirst was the fun loving and hilarious dame; Mrs Briggs, causing belly-laughs aplenty from the opening scenes right through to the end that made it an uplifting performance that thrilled the kids and left parents rolling in the aisles thanks to a couple of near the knuckle quips that go right over the heads of the younger members of the audience.
As expected, all the traditional elements of pantomime are present: custard pie fights, the ‘It’s behind you!’ scene, great music and dance routines, cheesy jokes alongside genuinely funny ones, oodles of audience participation, a traditional sing along, live music from a Mexican trio band, outrageous costumes and glittering sets.
The other cast members are faultless, too. Jackie Ayre as the evil crone who works her magic to transform the prince into the beastly form who roams the castle. Claire Beckett and Louise Farmer as the hilarious and over the top-dressed sisters who are constantly on the lookout for a wealthy man and even select one or two from the audience and of course the fabulous Barry Ibbetson who plays the bubbling head butler Geeves and is constantly on the run from the Dame who is determined to make him hers.
The stage is an aesthetically pleasing tribute to its designers Roger Aimes-King and Chris Roberts and lighting and sound designer Mike Turner with lighting spilling over the audience on many occasions, making you feel as though you are part of the action.
Everyone lives happily ever after when Bella realises she does love the beast despite his ghastly features and both end with a beautiful duet of True Colours and end with a very real kiss, which is something that comes naturally being a couple in real life. The panto comes to a fabulous end with all the cast singing a stunning version of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast classic song, Tale as Old as Time. And of course, there is a big there’s a big mash up at the end with the popular Flash Dance which had everyone on their feet ready to dance the night away.
We had our toughest critics in for the Saturday Matinee performances – that’s right children, who pick up on every detail and can be relied on for a completely honest review.
Ashton, aged six said: “The bit with the custard pie fight was really funny and I liked shouting ‘It’s behind you!’ when the beast was hiding from Bella’s father”.
Jack, aged nine commented: “I liked every single bit of it. I thought it was very exciting and Bella’s sisters were so funny, and I liked the music because I knew some of the songs, so I could sing along”.
We cannot wait to see what they come up with next year!