North East & YorkshirePantomimeReview

Beauty and the Beast: The Rock and Roll Panto – Leeds City Varieties

Reviewer: Ruth Jepson

Writer: Peter Rowe

Director: Rob Salmon

Covid-19? It’s behind you! (Oh no it isn’t – keep wearing your masks and getting your jabs.)

The annual Rock and Roll Panto has returned after the 2020 hiatus and this year they’re getting on down with Beauty and the Beast, incorporating classic rock tracks such as Sweet Child of Mine, Somebody to Love and, erm, One Direction’s That’s What Makes You Beautiful.

For the uninitiated, the Rock and Roll Panto is a rather more modern take on your traditional pantomime. The set up is family friendly, although the jokes are slightly more adult – especially this year, where there are some hilariously close to the line ones that will hopefully fly over the heads of any children in the audience – the music is better, and no-one is forced to sing any nursery rhymes at the end while the cast get changed into their finale frocks. Oh, and when the fairy isn’t in a scene, she will be at the back of the stage tinkling the ivories or blowing a saxophone. Yes, the hybrid of actors who are also the band is back in full, rocking force, and it is so good to see them again.

As for the plot, this telling of Beauty and the Beast goes back to the original fairy tale. Under the observation of Fairy Fortunate (Lana Walker), Merchant Sir Peacock Beauregard (Kenny Davies, Rock and Roll Panto regular) stumbles into the castle belonging to the Beast (Conor Mellor) after trying to bring back presents for his three daughters Vanity (Hannah Price), Luxury (Hannah Baker) and Beauty (Grace Lancaster). He accidentally steals a rose and to soften the Beast’s ire, Beauty offers to live at the castle, and we all know how that works out. In the meantime, the family are staying at a farm, owned by Dame Bessie Bigbreaths (Simon Nock) and her hapless helper Desperate Dan (James William-Pattison) who also happens to be head over heels in love with Beauty – although with the advent of strong Disney Princesses, maybe modern panto should start to veer away from men who choose to wear down the female lead after they don’t seem to be able to take no for an answer? Not a criticism of this show per say, more a general observation writer Peter Rowe might like to take on board next year.

The cast are phenomenal, and the amount of comic and musical talent on show is simply wonderful. Lancaster has a particularly spectacular voice (her rendition of Can’t Hurry Love is perfect), and you cannot hope for better comedic delivery than that shown by Nock. If a Panto rises or falls on it’s dame, then Beauty and the Beast has nothing to worry about with this seasoned performer.

The set and costumes for the show add a cartoonish wonder to the event, although it would be nice to see a more beastly looking Beast – he has a horned mask, but when his henchmen Primp (Alice Gruden) and Preen (Tim Roberts) are furrier than their master it does slightly take away the belief that Beauty initially finds him horrific. The 20s inspired costumes for the three sisters could also do with a bit of work to improve the fit, as refreshing a design choice as it is the steer away from the traditional corseted peasant dress.

Beauty and the Beast Rock and Roll Panto is a fantastic introduction to panto season, and one definitely not to be missed if you have older children. Or even if you’re just an adult who wants to bring back the magic of Christmas after a horrendous year – in the words of Robbie Williams, Let (Leeds City Varieties) Entertain You.

Runs until 9th January 2022

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The Yorkshire & North East team is under the editorship of Jacob Bush. 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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