Beauty and the Beast Review - Val Ruloff
Ooooh's and aaaaah's and exclamations of delight abound ... tumbling all over each other in every direction, all at once!
Chelsey Gillard, Artistic Director of the Torch Theatre and pantomime script writer for Beauty and the Beast, has well and truly knocked it out of the park with this fabulous show!
Once more , any excuse :-
"Oooooh, yes, it did " ..... score a Beauty of a hit ! "Oooh, no, it didn't " ..... make a Beast of itself or put a foot wrong!
I will emphasise that when it comes to the brooding Beast played by Samuel Freeman ... he's a roaring success! Fabulously beastly, but nobly princely too, he's really come into his own and outshines any Beastie Boy! He's a bit of a hero!
Meanwhile, the beautiful Belle, played by Leilah Hughes, manages to enchant and engage us completely with her charm and sweetness - all rolled into one to emerge as a proper heroine. The journeys of both the Beast and Belle during the unfolding story are perfectly illustrative of all that panto does best ... giving us a moral of the story, a message focused on the triumph of good over evil and a reminder of lessons to be learned about right and wrong. The Beast managed to elicit my complete sympathy and I was right on side with him ... especially when he gave a rendering of his soulful and sad ballad, written specially for Sam Freeman by James Williams. Belle in turn gave a layered performance as she, too , tussled with conflicting emotions.
Kevin Jenkins, Set and Costume Designer, has once more pulled out all the stops! He's well and truly delivering the goods to design splendidly imaginative sets, backdrops and scenery and there are some very eye catching and effective touches, really enhancing the atmosphere. Everything has burst into vibrant and colourful life since the snapshot preview glimpsed during the run up to the opening of production. The costumes are inspired , an absolute joy to behold ... pantomime at its very best!
The beautiful and romantic rose motif works wonderfully and is very effectively executed.
Belle makes her big entrance for the Beast's birthday party wearing the specially designed, bespoke, "House of Ioan" based in Tenby, gown. Both she and her gown are a sensation!
Jane Laljee, Lighting Designer, is certainly not to be outdone when it comes to special effects and creating atmosphere. These techniques are very exciting... and meaningfully woven into the drama!
I was reminded of the comments previously shared with fellow reviewer, Liam Dearden, about what a great story Beauty and the Beast is to be showcasing. We do all know the well-loved story, of course, but there are some very inventive twists, turns and variations on a theme here, too. Liam and I couldn't resist taking the opportunity during the interval to wax lyrical in our praises and share enthusiastic views.
The simplicity and fun of the daft, silly jokes and puns earn a well-deserved groan every time ... and then there's the more adult humour to add to the mirth too. The name checks and topical references to local places and landmarks is always a joy and adds quite a thrill.
The whole cast of characters are "proof pudding" of that earlier taster now ripened deliciously to fruition!
Good Fairy Gertrude (Ceri Mears) is quite simply " a riot " and a scream, perfectly fulfilling the role of any self-respecting panto "dame" in full regalia! Good Fairy Gertrude is resplendent! Fun and humour, but also pathos, is all in the mix. Gertrude even manages to contrive some moments of affectionate closeness with Belle's father.
Evil Fairy Shadowmist (Ceri Ashe) is inspired. She too portrays every aspect of the " Wicked Fairy" to a 't'! Pouting and pursing of lips as she spits out her vengeance, then sneers and snarls her way through her plots and schemes in pitch-perfect "baddie" mode. She also does a stealthy line in stashing secret weapons about her person ... all the better for a surprise attack! Her costume and appearance are magnificent and she's well poised to make a most dramatic impact.
Crystal Shanda-Lear the Butler (Amelia Ryan) is excellent and fully endears herself in this role and Belle’s father (Lloyd Grayshon) ditto - same applies exactly! The scope for variety provided by these roles is played to the max by both characters. They run through the whole gamut of zany fun, jollity, silly jokes and slapstick. Crystal becomes a distinct and significant character in her own right, whilst Belle's father also impresses as a memorable and important character.
The interplay, the action and formation of double acts contribute to a joyful time. They all manage to become contenders in the hot favourite stakes. Special shout-out to Swing , Freya Dare, who garnered some rapturous feedback the instant she was called upon , courtesy of her local appreciation society .
Bethan Eleri, Fight Director, has accomplished no mean feat regarding both high drama as well as the mayhem of wild action scenes. The musical pieces are plentiful, as promised ... and all the better for getting to hear them all in entirety. Music is integral to a good pantomime and an essential part of the blend of course. Sarah Benbow , Musical Director , and James Williams' Music and Lyrics merit special mention here ... and huge credit. The music is exceptional... that bar has been set very high! The whole range of sumptuous ballads, little ditties and rollicking, handclapping sing along big numbers is joyous ... sweeping us along at a fine pace.
As the song so eloquently says ... "If you go down to the woods today ... you're sure of a big surprise"!
So, don't risk missing out on all the jolly japes and fun. Most important of all ... watch out , he's behind you !
TORCH THEATRE NEWSLETTER
Get in the Spotlight!
Want to be the first to hear about upcoming performances, exclusive ticket offers, and behind-the-scenes action at the Torch Theatre? Subscribe to our newsletter and let the drama come to you.