Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Reviewed by Nikki Cotter
Regal Entertainments and St Helens Theatre Royal’s usual run of family-favourite pantomimes throughout the year came to an abrupt halt when the Coronavirus pandemic closed theatres across the country back in March. The creatives rallied together producing an innovative virtual show: Rapunzel: The Lockdown Panto, back in April and now through lots of hard work, commitment and Covid compliance bring Beauty and The Beast to the stage, opening the doors of the Theatre Royal to audiences once again.
Directed by Chantelle Nolan and written by Liam Mellor, Beauty and The Beast tells the famous fairy-tale of a prince cursed to live as a monstrous beast, the only thing that can break the curse is…of course true-loves kiss! But just how does a furry monster find true love, especially when we are all social distancing!
Regal Entertainments have well and truly pulled out all the stops to ensure their first live show in a long 9 months is an unforgettable one. The script is positively jam-packed with Covid gags with Boris Johnson getting a hilarious ribbing while Joe Wicks, Chris Witty and even the track and trace app all feature.
French Frank and Pretty Polly played by Scott Gallagher and Jamie Greer respectively are a perfect comedy duo, guiding us through the ups and downs of life in the village of Petit Pois as they try and save their master (Andrew Geater) from a hairy ending. They bounce off each other brilliantly, the quick-witted pair are clearly having a ball being back in front of an audience, throwing themselves full throttle into the slapstick silliness as well as offering plenty of cheeky gags for the grownups.
Timothy Lucas as a scene stealing Gaston is an absolute joy, self-obsessed, pumped up and completely outrageous he has the audience in the palm of his hand from his first swivel-hipped lunge onto stage. His mother the Cruella De Ville-esque Madam Botox (Abigail Middleton) is as detestable as her air-head son, the two make a perfectly ghastly pair of pantomime villains.
Olivia Sloyan makes for a superbly sassy Belle while Andrew Geater’s charm shines through as the reclusive Beast. Jenna Sian O’Hara acts as narrator in her role as Fairy Rose, her no nonsense Northern attitude sees her giving as good as she gets in an unforgettable 12 Days of Covid which leaves the audience roaring with laughter (behind our Covid compliant masks of course).
Choreographer Nazene Langfield has created some beautiful numbers for the talented senior dancers, sadly no juvenile dancers this year due to Covid restrictions but the seniors do a wonderful job of filling the stage adding real depth to the musical numbers. There’s some great song choices this year, many with a Covid twist which are an absolute stroke of genius and while the audience can’t participate in the usual way a TikTok dance off fills the gaps perfectly.
By the time of the final transformation scene, you’ll be wishing you could stay in your seat and watch it all over again. This hilarious production at a time when theatre making is more challenging than ever before is an utter treat, just what’s needed to lift spirits, create magical memories and remind us all just how precious the arts are. Kudos to all at St Helen’s Theatre Royal for creating a perfectly safe environment for families to enjoy some much-needed escapism.
Beauty and the Beast is an absolute Christmas cracker, in the words of my Godson Freddie “The best one we’ve ever seen”
Beauty and The Beast is on at St Helens Theatre Royal until Sunday 3rd Jan tickets from £16 available via Ticketsolve – St Helens Theatre Royal