Today we started our Easter holidays on a high with a family jaunt over to Liverpool and a visit to The Epstein Theatre to watch their Easter ‘Panto’ (yeah I thought that was odd too) – Beauty and the Beast. Now I’ve been super excited about this since it was booked weeks ago. Chloe only got Beauty and the Beast on DVD at Christmas so is a very recent fan of the film meaning I had high hopes for how much she’d enjoy seeing it reproduced on stage.
Aside from a trip to see The Sooty Show Live last Summer we haven’t been to the theatre before. The last panto I saw was when Dave took me one Christmas, probably about ten years ago! Of course this meant that Ben and Chloe had no idea what to expect and aren’t used to the standard panto traditions of “oh no he isn’t” or booing at the bad guy, nor in fact are they used to a good old pantomime dame (unless you count Aunt Sally on Something Special!).
As ever they knew nothing more about our afternoon plans than “We’re going on an adventure . . . ” but as soon as we arrived at The Epstein Theatre they remembered the Tiger Who Came to Tea event we had attended at half term. Ben had quickly spotted a Beauty and the Beast poster and assumed we had come to watch someone read the story so he was excited when I explained we would be watching the actors on the stage!
I must admit I was nervous about how Amy would cope with the show, she was quite restless before hand and I really wasn’t convinced she would sit still. Dave knew he was on Amy duty if she needed taking out (as clearly I needed to watch the show to be able to write about it!) but being as how she’s pretty much permanently attached to my hip at the moment there was no way she was going to sit on his knee to watch the performance. Luckily as soon as the show started she settled right down and was kept entertained through a combination of drinks, snacks and general noise and lights coming from the stage. Phew.
|The Beast actually wore a mask in the performance which is much scarier that this costume!|
The LHK Productions version of Beauty and the Beast incorporates some of the well known favourites from the Disney film along with current pop songs and a few cheeky 5ive references. For the most part the panto follows the general storyline of the Disney film however there are some notable differences – the evil Countess de Champagne provides a great boo-worthy “bad guy” who has cursed the handsome Prince turning him into fearsome beast for daring to love someone other than her. (And who can blame him – she’s certainly not lovable). The traditional pantomime dame role falls to Dame Dolly Donut playing the part of the cook in the Beast’s castle – “she” was thoroughly entertaining with plenty of innuendo and cheeky jokes to keep the Mums and Dad’s entertained. (A favourite moment being when Ben turned to me and asked “Mum, what’s a prick” and I had to explain it’s the feeling of getting an injection *cringe*). The Beast was, as you’d expect, a terrifying figure. Chloe, unsurprisingly, really wasn’t too keen on him. I had reminded her before the show started that even if she thought he was scary, she needed to remember that she knows what happens at the end of the story and that he isn’t really a bad guy which seemed to help. Of course she loved Belle, telling me that her favourite part of the whole performance was “when she got her new dress” – she means when Belle is wearing her beautiful yellow ball gown which has become synonymous with the character. Anton, played by Ritchie Neville (flashback to uni days there and the girls in my halls having a real thing for 5ive!), was great fun to watch – I was laughing and cringing in equal measure. Ben told me his highlight was when Anton said “ding dong” which was a bit of an ongoing joke referring to Belle’s name.
|The Beast, Belle, Aton and Dame Dolly Donut|
There were one or two technical hitches where the performers mics weren’t turned up quickly enough or if one of the other characters got too near to the Beast then their voice was affected by his voice changer but the kids were obviously oblivious to this and I’m sure they will be quickly addressed as the show runs on! I had expected there might be a little more audience participation to really get the atmosphere going but the kids enjoyed shouting “Bonjour Louis” to one of the characters and clapping along to the songs. I think the second half of the show was more exciting from that point of view. The story of Beauty and the Beast isn’t one I would normally expect to see performed as a panto, I tend to think of it as more of a musical performance but perhaps this is the heavy Disney influence I’ve experienced!
|Chloe was a little starstruck when we were able to have a photo opportunity with the stars of the show!|
All in all we had a really lovely afternoon and think the Beauty and the Beast panto makes for a lovely way to spend a wet Easter afternoon.
*Disclaimer – We were invited to see the Beauty and the Beast panto performed free of charge for the purposes of writing this review. All thoughts and opinions remain our own*