Paul Holman Associates and Worthing Theatres family pantomime presenting Robin Windsor (Gaston), Jai McDowall (The Count/The Beast) and Sapphire Elia (Belle) was a wonderful way to welcome back this honoured tradition to this lovely seaside theatre. After a years absence it was a real treat to be back.
Though Beauty and the Beast is not a classic pantomime choice it delivered all the traditional highlights while telling the story and keeping the audience captivated. There were definite nods to the past and it was a joy to hear the return of ‘He’s behind you’ and ‘Oh no he isn’t’. Audience participation was back in abundance and the enjoyment on everyone’s faces, not just the children, was evident throughout.
This was a very well cast production. Jai McDowall (Count/Beast) and Sapphire Elia (Belle) are extremely talented vocalists as well as actors and their chemistry shone through in their well delivered performances. Jai was suitably tall and handsome and the dark Beast moments came through without being over the top. Sapphire was cool and modern while still showing traditional pretty sweetness. Robin Windsor (Gaston) did not disappoint as he used his excellent dancing skills (often to the well known Strictly come dancing theme tune) to enhance his part and also showed off his singing talent when he performed a Lady Gaga song. A very believable ‘baddy’ who received many ‘boos’. Another lovely nod to tradition was casting a male Dame. Andre Vincent (Madame Cherie Trifle) was an absolute delight. His comic timing was perfect and his interaction with the other cast members, as well as the audience, was a joy to watch. There was much laughter from the audience when he was on stage. A natural performer whose cheery comedy and beautifully delivered one liners were real scene stealers. Katie Pritchard (Crepe Suzette) and Josh Haberfield (Philippe Philoppe) worked beautifully together as the comedy duo. They were funny, cheeky and really engaging with the audience. Especially when interacting with the children. They had a lot of stage time and used it to it’s full potential when performing sketches and songs. There was a lot of physical comedy in their routines which kept us all engaged and they delivered many gags which were fresh and new. A particularly good ‘Where did you get that hat?’ sketch was a definite highlight. Dani Hardy (Enchantress) was a lovely link throughout the show and showed off her dance skills beautifully and Ross Muir (Professor Crackpot) was a warm, friendly character who the audience immediately liked. The small ensemble worked extremely hard and appeared to be enjoying every minute as much as we were. They played villagers, travellers and sprites and their dancing skills were outstanding. A really well choreographed group of young performers who enhanced the show greatly.
The sets were all excellent and while simple were very effective in letting the audience know exactly where they were. The houses in the village scenes were traditional and bright and worked well in contrast to the Beasts dark lair. The inside of the castle was very well depicted with library and banqueting hall backdrops. The music was refreshing as no songs from the film were used. Instead there was a mix of genres and ages which worked really well. This ranged from hip hop and Tayler Swift to ‘World of pure imagination’ and Ant and Dec’s ‘let’s get ready to rumble’ used for the comedy duo’s entrance. The costumes were all wonderful and relevant and a special mention must go to the Dame for his super quick costume changes which must have been a challenge. The whole cast looked stunning and Belle and The Beasts costumes were identical to those we associate the characters with. The iconic yellow ball gown and ugly Beast head were spot on.
This production was a lovely mix of modern and traditional. Old styles re emerging and new gags and comments being subtly introduced. There were covid related jokes and a nod to gender neutral cultures and they were all well received.
I would thoroughly recommend this unique and extremely well acted production of Beauty and the Beast and very much look forward to returning next year for more fun and frolics.