High jinks in Newburyshire
Beauty & The Beast at the Corn Exchange, Newbury until December 31
Review by ROBIN STRAPP
THE Corn Exchange has a huge festive hit with this year’s lavish pantomime Beauty and the Beast, once again written by the creative team of Plested, Brown and Wilsher who also inventively direct this superb show with style.
The highly-talented energetic cast are really excellent strong storytellers who embrace this pantomime with gusto and are determined that the audience should all have a great time... and we certainly did.
Set in ‘Newburyshire’ with an abundance of hilarious local references including Highclere Castle and the Kennet Centre, we meet the enthusiastic Fairy Common (Jade Johnson) driving her tractor and an ardent supporter of all things green.
Jenny Perry has a commanding stage presence as the wicked witch from Reading West who was thoroughly booed by the audience much to her delight.
Ratty and Batty are two rodents who live in Highclere Castle, gloriously played by Lois Elizabeth Glenister and Robbie Noonan, who are a perfect comic duo.
The audience loved their high jinks.
Returning for her second year to Newbury, Chloe Gentles shines as Belle, giving a stellar performance and singing beautifully.
She meets the Prince, who has been turned into the Beast by the wicked witch and becomes trapped in his castle.
Nathan Shaw is most impressive as this misunderstood being and has a superb singing voice.
But can Belle find a way to his heart?
Every panto needs a dame and Graham Mackay-Bruce, making his first foray in this role as Pansy Pocock, quickly develops a rapport with the audience.
His outlandish costumes grow more and more bizarre at every change.
The hard working versatile ensemble of Abby Fell, Harry Warburton (making his stage debut) and Scott Hayward give excellent support.
There is so much to enjoy in this family friendly panto with lots of surprises including flying bed bugs, groan-making jokes, an exhausting hilarious rendition of the Twelve Days of Christmas and oodles of audience participation.
Holly Hughes’ slick choreography is spot on and musical director Ben Barrow assisted by Luke Hinchcliffe provides the stirring music.
With spectacular costumes, sparkling sets and dramatic special effects this is not to be missed.