Beauty and the Beast – Nottingham Playhouse

Reviewer: Kerrie Walters

Writer: Kenneth Alan Taylor

Director: Bill Buckhurst

The traditional pantomime is a great British tradition. When we buy a ticket we expect glitz, glamour, audience participation, topical humour, cheesy dad jokes with a healthy dose of double entendre and innuendo. This pantomime has all the above and more.

Based on the original fairy-tale, written in 1740, the story of Beauty and the Beast is a classic romance with a side serving of morality. A bright independent young lady sacrifices herself for the sake of her family and ends up finding love with a beast after deciding that it is what is inside that truly counts.

Anyone with a child under ten will tell you that a sure-fire way to excite the children is with an enthusiastic rendition of Wellerman and that is exactly how this show starts much to the delight of every child in the room. A wave of giddy excitement sweeps the room as Jacques the Lad (Myles Miller) bounces onstage to kick off proceedings. Miller takes on the role of narrator and does so with seemingly boundless energy. He bounces from scene to scene lighting every piece of action with an infectious smile. He introduces each character in turn and we are treated to a theatrical buffet of characters which adds colour and comedy to the show. From Belle’s sisters Veronique and Florence with their Kim Kardashian/Lady Gaga hybrid aesthetic to the more traditional offerings of Maurice and Gaston, this show is a spectacle from its outset.

Of course, a pantomime would not be a pantomime without the dame. Madame Fifi (John Elkington) is resplendent throughout. In each scene, she models an ever more intricate and elaborate costume until the final scene where she stuns in a fully lit Eiffel tower. From her first line as she booms ‘Hey up me ducks!’ the audience is left rolling in the aisles. Elkington gives a masterful comedic performance with the use of enormous comedy props such as feather dusters and traffic cones mixed with his own razor-sharp wit and instinctive improvisation skills.

The soundtrack of the show is peppered with mashups of upbeat contemporary music and works well; every single member of the cast has a strong voice and manoeuvres the choreography well. As a company, they have excellent chemistry, and all have exceptional comic timing.

Act two starts with the Beast (Scott Armstrong) moonwalking downstage as he and his gargoyles give a spectacularly spooky rendition of Thriller. Alistair David’s choreography is crisp and atmospheric as the Beast and the gargoyles maraud through the smoke. With the second act focusing on the emotional journey of the Beast as a character, it is a nice change of pace when we see him simply sit on his throne and tell his backstory to girl guide Madame Fifi through the medium of projected shadow animation by Raphael Achache. This is visually stunning and Morgan Large’s design really shines in this moment.

As the second act progresses and the love story develops, we see Belle (Lisa Ambalavanar) in the iconic Disney inspired yellow dress as the dreamy ballroom sequence takes place with the ethereal accompanying performance of A Kiss from a Rose. This is accompanied by a wave of audible satisfaction from the audience.

The comedic climax of the show comes as Jacques, Maurice and Fifi prepare afternoon tea in the Little Shop of Horrors-esque conservatory. This is a slapstick comedy of errors that leaves Maurice (Tom Hopcroft) in a tea-soaked, creamy mess much to the amusement of the children. The energy both on stage and in the audience participation in this section is so powerful that it was extended for multiple reprises, ending with the whole cast onstage howling with laughter. At Press Night, this ended with a slight wardrobe malfunction during one of the reprises as Madame Fifi lost her hat and hilariously windmilled it out of her face for the remainder of the scene, much to the delight of audience and cast members alike.

This show is a sparkly piece of Christmas magic, sure to captivate and delight the whole family over the festive period.

Runs until 15 January 2022

The Reviews Hub Score

Uproarious family fun

The Reviews Hub - Central

The Central team is under the editorship of Selwyn Knight. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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One Comment

  1. I enjoyed the experience at the nottingham playhouses it was most enjoyable now load bangs l hate them and the beast was very good and l like his foce and hope to come back next year if possible

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