Not that Jonathan Race’s Beast is not as scary as you would want him to be, particularly in his earliest appearances. Although The Beast is ugly enough to send the tiniest youngsters scurrying under their parents’ arms for comfort he soon wins over both the girl and the audience. And the other potential villain Gaston, played by James Marin, shows just a touch of vanity but never a villainous edge.
Jonathan and James are both newcomers to the Playhouse panto team but judging by their first performances they are both lined up to join writer and director Kenneth Alan Taylor’s first eleven.
Ken finally stepped down from playing Dame last year but still retains his master’s eye over proceedings, ably handing over the outrageous dresses and high heels to Nottingham favourite John Elkington as Madame Fifi. No-one is safe from Madam’s wanton wilfulness from his fellow cast members to the hapless mum who took a loo break and returned just in time to become the butt of the Dame’s scorn to everyone else’s amusement. However, there is more to this Dame than withering asides and a fine line in frocks. John has a singing voice that can carry off anything required from belting out rock and roll numbers to a genuinely tender rending of the Disney’s classic Beauty and the Beast.
This really is a regular team effort by the Playhouse and there is no member of that team stronger than John Morton who chalks up his twentieth panto this year as MD with a terrific choice of songs. Designer Tim Meacock in contrast is back for just his third season but comes pretty near to pantomime perfection offering wonderfully imaginative settings and a stunning series of transformations. None is better than the Beast’s always tricky change from monster to man which drew some genuine gasps of delight.
Danielle Corlass made an enchanting Belle ably supported by Rebecca Little and Alexandra James as “ugly sisters” Florence and Veronique while Anthony Hoggard mangled up his French beautifully as their father Maurice.
Adam Flynn, as Jacques, needs a little more pizzazz to win us over totally as Belle’s cheeky brother. And his costume bizarrely seemed to come from another, cheaper, show but the kids all loved him –which is just as it should be in this thoroughly traditional family fare.