Journal Tyne Theatre, Newcastle upon Tyne

The entire cast of Beauty and the Beast, without exception, from chorus line to named leads are to be congratulated for their professionalism in making this show work. I would welcome the opportunity to see them perform together in a full blown, lavish, well scripted, tightly directed pantomime, sadly, this is not that show.

Unfortunately, in this version of Beauty and the Beast, the cast have little to work with due to lack lustre basic scenery, poor storyline and many of the familiar characters being omitted. It will always be hard not to compare any version of this tale to the classic Disney cartoon and smash hit stage musical but by changing so much, it appears this production wanted to do exactly that, which is totally understandable. But then have the overture and two production numbers use songs from the Disney version, gives very mixed messages. Basically this story needs to be a version of the Disney tale or not, one or the other, you cannot throw out the story line but keep a couple of well known Disney songs and put Belle in a yellow gown, to keep the audience on side. It simply does not work.

For all intents and purposes this show is a pantomime, as even Idle Jack appears to keep things moving along. However there is no mention of Gaston, instead we have a French character called Bourbon and his English gormless relative as the baddie and his side kick.

There is certainly some humour, but when you hear the music to “Be Our Guest” you expect numerous characters, knives and forks dancing and pyrotechnics, here we have none of that. When the main characters sing the classic “Beauty and the Beast”, they basically just stand with the front cloth behind them.

Jonathan Ansell (formerly of G4) performs a couple of solo numbers as the Beast, but after the transformation scenes looks uncomfortable as the Prince ,while Melissa Suffield (Lucy Beale from Eastenders) does what she can with her role of Belle. But Jonny Freeman (MI High) turns in a true comedy performance that is very different to his recent local panto performance as the Prince in Snow White. But it is impressionist Andy Fleming who injects most of the comedy with brilliant impressions.

However, if you have never seen the Disney version and want an out of season basic pantomime, this might be the show for you.