Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️
Reviewer Kate Goerner
Regal Entertainments and St Helens Theatre Royal continue their run of panto throughout the year by revisiting their well-received production of Beauty and the Beast from April 2017 – with a few cast changes.
The team has a reputation for putting on fast-paced and fun family pantomimes, at affordable prices (tickets start at £12) and Regal regulars will be pleased to see a host of familiar faces in the cast.
Directed by Chantelle Nolan and written by Liam Mellor, Beauty and the Beast tells the famous tale of the prince cursed to live in the body of a beast until the love of a beautiful girl sets him free – think Disney but with a few panto twists!
Returning again as the comedy duo that steer the show are the Theatre Royal’s resident comic Lewis Devine and dame Simon Foster, here playing French Frank and Pretty Polly.
The pair have fantastic chemistry together, and had the audience in the palm of their hands. My little reviewer loved the scene where Devine was turned into a frog, and seeing Devine interact with the youngsters invited on stage (always one of the best bits of panto and reliant on the comic in question being able to quickly improvise – as Devine could) was lovely.
Foster had some fabulous frocks and with his trademark ‘You-Hoo’ was clearly having a ball. His Prince Harry and Meghan Markle joke was the gag of the night.
This really is Foster and Devine’s show, so much so that the title characters definitely get less time on stage than their comedy counterparts.
Milkshake’s Kiera-Nicola Brennan played a spirited Belle, with Andrew Geater (Dandini in Easter’s Cinderella) a fine-voiced Beast. Philip McGuinness reprised his crowd-pleasing turn as the vain Gaston, with award-winning panto performer Hannah Potter also returning as the Cruella De Ville-esque Madame Botox, Gaston’s scheming mum.
And BBC Pitch Battle’s Maddie Hope Coelho (Dorothy in Regal’s The Wizard of Oz) put in a highly polished and professional turn as Fairy Rose – her ‘When You Believe’ in the transformation scene was a delight.
There were just enough references to the much-loved Disney animated version to keep the army of little yellow-dressed Belles in the audience, but don’t go expecting a carbon copy of that version – you do get to see Belle in a gorgeous yellow ball gown though- never fear.
(I did enjoy the gag by Foster and Devine about not having the rights to ‘THAT’ song from Disney’s version.)
And music is a massive part of the panto experience, and on this occasion the song choices – while well performed – were not particularly memorable, and some had lyrics changed – which was a bit confusing at times and not really effective. A few more hits from the past 12 months would have been welcome (no Greatest Showman?) although the all-conquering Baby Shark did make a hugely popular appearance.
The storybook sets and costumes were charming and effective (although no costume changes for the wedding/finale?) and the adult and juvenile dancers supported the principle cast well.
So much to enjoy definitely, and at a commendable price, while perhaps not quite hitting the sparkly heights of previous pantos from Regal.
Up next for the team is the Christmas offering of Peter Pan, again starring Foster and Devine, with the starry additions of Liverpool favourite Louis Emerick (Captain Hook) and Strictly’s Kristina Rihanoff (Wendy). We’ll be there! (Oh yes we will!)
Beauty and the Beast runs until Sunday 28th October at St Helen’s Theatre Royal tickets available here.