Review of Beauty and the Beast - Newcastle Theatre Royal
By Andrew Harrison - Arts critic
‘BEAUTY and the Beast’ (The Spellbinding Pantomime), at the Theatre Royal, is the story of a selfish prince, Chris Cowley, turned into a beast and fearing he will remain so forever until the kind hearted Belle, Laura Evans, makes him feel human again – interspersed with many funny moments. Or should I say there are many funny scenes, interspersed with little bits of ‘Beauty and the Beast’. The hilarious romp through a well-loved story twists you from wonder to laughter seamlessly.
The show was written by Alan McHugh and Michael Harrison, also directed by the latte, and celebrates not just the fun and wonder of a great panto, but also has a joyful chuckle about being from the north east – with an interesting twist on the song “Brush Up Your Shakespeare”. The production works to the performers’ strengths with a lot of physical comedy, old jokes, new jokes and some twists you really won’t see coming.
The music, directed by Ian Townsend, hits the perfect note, bringing just the right atmosphere, and the ensemble of dancers, choreographed by Alan Harding, adds to the richness of the scenes. A lot of skilled dancing also came from the young people of the Marron Theatre Arts.
Lighting and visual effects set the pace throughout, though at times the smoke effects were a little too thick, making it hard to see the interesting staging as the beast fights off the glowing-eyed wolves. The costumes alone are worth the price of admission – speaking of which, Mrs Rita Potty, the ‘dame’, wears particularly phenomenal outfits: my favourite being the adventurous ‘gardening’ outfit. Whilst playing the sassy Mrs Potty, Chris Hayward, also designed the marvellous creations he wore.
At times the show runs close to the line with some of its racier jokes – for the older fans – it has something for everyone. There was so much skill in the ‘messy’ scene, painting a statue, by performers Clive Webb, Michael Potts and Danny Adams.
Danny Adams has such perfectly executed comic timing; he steals any scene he even walks close to. At several points, I wondered if I should see the show again just to find out how much of the comedy is him naturally adlibbing and how much was scripted.
This panto is a must on the list of shows to see this Christmas!
Beauty and the Beast is showing at the Theatre Royal from the 26 November 2019 until 19 January 2020.