Grand Opera House York – until Sunday 7th January. Reviewed by Michelle Richardson
This year is certainly big on Beauty and the Beast, with the live action film hitting the cinema screens earlier this year. Three Bears Productions turns the story in a pantomime and brings their version to York’s Grand Opera House this Christmas.
Not only is it bang on trend with subject matter, but they have the lady of the moment Debbie McGee, as Adorabella Angelpie, the good fairy, returning to York after her panto stint in last year’s Aladdin. Strictly Come Dancing has raised her profile and is fantastic publicity for her and this show, she certainly got the biggest cheer with Strictly references aplenty. It was great to see her managing to showcase her dancing and flexibility skills throughout the show. Her voice was struggling a bit but that just endeared the audience to her even more, she has certainly had a hectic schedule of late with rehearsals for this as well as Strictly. Well done and I hope to see her back in York next year for Cinderella.
Adorabella’s goodness is a trying to be thwarted by her evil cousin Wizardora Crabapple, played by Lynne McGranger, better known from the Aussie soap Home and Away. McGranger thoroughly relishes her role and really seems to be having a blast playing the baddie, especially with the digs at the cricket (England had just lost the Ashes to Australia). The whole audience just loved booing and hissing when she was on the stage and she just lapped it up.
Anthony Costa, formerly of the band Blue, plays the Prince/Beast. He does not have a great deal to do but does manage to showcase his voice with Rag’n’Bone Man’s Human, a huge task with the original being so powerful, but he does pull it off, and his own hit All Rise. Unfortunately, there appeared to be a few problems with his echolike booming voice when he turned into the Beast, hopefully this was just a glitch and will improve as the run goes on.
Belle is played by Charlotte Maclachlan and I did find her proficient but a bit underwhelming. Perhaps her role gets a bit lost when turned into a panto?
Talking about the dame, Steve Wickenden returns to York and puts in another fantastic performance as Misrabelle, Belle’s ugly sister. He has great stage presence and rapport with the audience with gags aplenty, some very saucy and close to the bone, which he just about gets away with. I really lost count of how many costume changes he had, one colourful creation after another. His performance was the highlight for me, and just like Debbie, I hope to see him back next year.
Holding it all together was Stuart Wade, the jester Seymour Bottom, whose name was played upon every time he came onto the stage, much to the delight of all the children in the audience. He also co-produced and directed the show. He is a natural and a born entertainer. It was a delight to see his interactions at the end of the show with the two young audience members as part of the sing song, even though he was upstaged by the adorable Freya.
The choreography by Emily Taylor, who also dances in the show, is performed well by the small group, giving polished performances, to the back drop of the colourful set and costumes.
It was great to see a packed theatre and hear all the traditional interactions of a pantomime. It was wonderful to see the joy on the children’s faces, it looked like they really loved the show, but it had something for everyone. Look out for the surprise just before the interval, something you do not expect to see in Beauty and the Beast!!