Attending Vivacity’s Key Theatre Pantomime – the longest running panto in the city – is starting to feel like being at a festive family gathering. I’ve attended the Press Night’s on behalf of ESP Magazine for the last few years and each time I’ll see familiar faces both on the stage (such as Rebecca Levy as Belle after previously playing the title role in 2018’s Peter Pan and Aurora in 2017’s Sleeping Beauty) and behind-the-scenes (Simon Egerton, writer/director for the fifth year running!).
I won’t lie, I was apprehensive about seeing Beauty and the Beast. Firstly, it just so happens to be my favourite Disney movie of all-time and secondly, I’ve given the Key Theatre Panto rave reviews over the years – so I worried I could be walking in with too high expectations and therefore it may disappoint… it did not!
Egerton has once again produced the goods with this hilarious, local twist on this tale as old as time.
Pierreborough (France) is the backdrop of this quirky adventure that sees Belle team up with her friends and family to rescue the Beast (Alex Tosh) from the wicked Wolf Queen (Fran Frenech) and her Wolf Pack.
It may be worth noting that you will not get the songs from the movies. Instead, this show is unique as it only features purpose-written music, made specifically for it – performed by the cast of actor-musicians, who play instruments in the band and well as acting. This panto is oozing with talent. Everyone can sing extremely well, but I must give a special mention to Rebecca Levy, who sings even better than some performers I’ve seen in West End shows.
Some songs will stay with me for a long time and let’s just say that I’ll never hear the word ‘Happiness’ in the same way again. You’ll know what I mean after seeing the show.
Other returning cast members include Fran Frenech as the evil Wolf Queen, Robin Johnson as Belle’s father and Rob Hazle as Chef Jean-Paul – a favourite character of mine due to some cracking one-liner’s (some that may or may not have been ad-libbed).
TJ Holmes is fantastic as Madame Obnobs. I’ve seen many different pantomime’s through the years and what makes this Dame particularly special is that Holmes is great at reading the audience. Just when he’s veering towards being a little too over-the-top, he’ll bring it back with a more humane side to the character – even breaking out of character entirely at the perfect moment.
I took my Niece along to see the show (alongside a friend and her daughter) and we all had an amazing time. We laughed, we cried, and we all highly recommend you see Beauty and the Beast, which is running till January 5, 2020.
Book online at www.vivacity.org/panto or call the Key Theatre box office on 01733 207239
ESP RATING: 4.5/5