“Could be the best panto Blackpool has seen for years.”
Beauty and the Beast, Blackpool Grand Theatre
Published: Monday 10 December 2018 MICHAEL HOLMES
The trees and lights seem to go up earlier every year, with only Bonfire Night and Halloween keeping them from popping up in early November.
But it’s never really Christmas until panto season gets under way. And if inflatable snowmen sat on muddy lawns surrounded by puddles and blown over wheelie bins don’t quite fill you with festive spirit, Beauty and the Beast at Blackpool’s Grand Theatre certainly will.
Running until January 6, this telling of the iconic fairy tale stars Eastenders actor Danny Walters as the Beast, resort favourite Steve Royle as Louis La Plonk, and stage star Amelia Adams-Pearce. Joining them is a talented cast of Gazette columnist Hayley Kay as Fairy Bon Bon, Nick Wilton as Polly La Plonk, Ben Harlow as Hugo Pompidou, and acting veteran Marcus Knibbs as Clement. Set in France, the three-hour show is filled with pop culture references; adaptations of modern songs, including ear-worm Baby Shark; and quips aplenty. A few jokes were missed by some, or felt a little inappropriate in 2018, like “My best friend is a fairy... well I’m a modern type of guy,” but most were both topical and funny - including jabs at the Brexit mess and the resort’s ongoing traffic woes. While the ever-dazzling brilliance of Steve Royle continues to cast a huge shadow, the talent of Danny Walters, who wowed with his incredible singing voice, and the acting ability of Marcus Knibbs, saw them stand out as stars that shone just as brightly to the benefit of the whole production. Nick Wilton’s Polly was both cheeky and ballsy (sorry, I couldn’t help it), and Hayley Kay retained her usual delightful stage presence. Ben Harlow played his part of the cocky Huge Pompidou well, though he seemed to stop short of being a proper pantomime villain and was a bit-part figure, so much so, in fact, the audience forgot to boo him at points. The band, and supporting cast, including youngsters from the Barbara Jackson Theatre Arts Centre, did themselves proud. They did so in front of resplendent sets and backdrops, and while wearing beautiful - and sometimes zany - costumes.
Steve Royle did his usual act of pulling youngsters on stage for a quick audience-participation singsong at the end, which meant people left the historic venue chuckling and smiling and that’s surely the point of the whole thing. This could be the best panto Blackpool has seen for years.
⭐️ ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Beauty and the Beast is a love story between beauty also known as Belle and the big scary Beast who lives in a castle. But in this magical adventure of a storyline they will take you on a rollercoaster of emotions that everybody needs to see. Pantomimes are for kids? Not this one! This is the show you need to drag everyone out to see! Even the grandparents, especially the grandads as they were short of a few tonight for a special performance involving sharks.
Right from the very beginning I found myself beaming and smiling at the show the whole way through and thanks to Steve Royle aka Louis La Plonk and his mother Polly La Plonk (Nick Wilton) for moving the show along and filling in the gaps with their great on stage relationship and comedic characters that are guaranteed to have you crying with laughter or chuckling the night away as they make the audience part of the show and even give out some goodies if you’re good.
The special star Keanu, I mean the Beast (Danny Walters) stunned me with his sensitive and angry sides of the beast and his beautiful voice that gave me all the feels and even brought a tear to my eye.
His beautiful co-star Belle (Amelia Adams-Pearce) really raises the roof belting out the newest and best song with her amazing voice and livening up the show making you just want to get up and boogie. If you’re like me, I’ve heard the Greatest Showman a little too much now. So, when they sung their version of “This is me” I was intrigued to listen to the words and found myself falling in love with the song all over again.
How the actors/actresses performed and make the show so clear and easy to follow really makes the whole thing feel special. There were some moments where I felt that the characters rushed the jokes and made it feel scripted but I still found everyone including myself thoroughly enjoying it. The use of the staging and props really brings the show together and adds to the effect of magic. The little dancers from Barbara Jackson Theatre Arts Centre really showed their professionalism and are destined to be big stars when they are older! The way those girls used their faces and performed the routines superbly really stole the show every time they came on.
Overall, the show was a great spectacular with something for everyone. It is a fun filled night with dazzling dancers, comedic fun, magic skills, show and movie references that everyone knows and a bunch of laughter to brighten anyone’s spirits. Well done to the whole cast and crew for pulling off an amazing show. I look forward to seeing future productions. Beauty and the Beast continues until the 6th January 2019. Performance times and tickets can be found at https://www.blackpoolgrand.co.uk/event/beauty-and-the-beast-pantomime/
Last night in tech we got up to the Beast’s first entrance - it’s a wonderfully theatrical moment and Danny plays it beautifully; very dramatic and incredibly moving. He’s got an amazing voice and his song is going to bring the house down.
Jon Monie (who I’ve spent the last three years with at The Theatre Royal Bath) has given us a script packed with excellent comedy (obviously) but there’s also some very beautifully written and incredibly touching scenes.
He should be very proud. He’s written a great show.
Thrilled to be going back to The Grand Theatre, Blackpool this Christmas in Beauty The Beast (my 19th year playing Dame). Really looking forward to working with Steve Royle & Hayley Kay again (had a great time with them in Sleeping Beauty in 2014). It's also going to be fun to be back on stage with Danny Walters, who I last worked with in 2013 when I had to take over the part of John Smith for the last week of Ray Cooney's Caught In The Net at The Mill at Sonning. Our paths haven't crossed on EastEnders yet! It's a fantastic, brand new script for UK Productions written by resident Theatre Royal Bath panto comic, Jon Monie, who I've shared my last three Christmas seasons with.