BEAUTY AND THE BEAST at the Watford Palace Theatre
“a marvellous show, and a wonderful way to spend an evening!”
Watford’s fantastically festive and chaotically camp pantomime is a Christmas extravaganza!
The first thing to note, which I don’t tend to mention in reviews, but I think is noteworthy on this occasion, is that every single member of staff at Watford Palace Theatre is delightful. From the box office team welcoming me into the building, to the usher who walked me right to my seat, to the hard-working bar staff dealing with a busy interval with smiles on their faces. There was a lovely air of excitement throughout the theatre, and it really added to the pleasant festive atmosphere.
The story (Andrew Pollard) is a unique twist on the traditional tale as old as time. It is set at the Rose Rouge, the finest theatre in Paris, but an up and coming singer falls foul of a dastardly magician’s devilish plot, and only true love can save him!
The riotous script was everything you want from a pantomime. It was a perfect mix of groan-worthy, predictable panto jokes alongside some genuinely hilarious, unexpected moments, with a hefty dose of slapstick, toilet humour and double entendres that go straight over children’s heads, but had the adults roaring with laughter.
The hand painted set (designed by Cleo Pettitt) was impressive, and the lighting (Jamie Platt) gave it some extra razzle dazzle, which added to the spectacle. The lighting throughout was superb – great effects, clever mood lighting, and I always appreciate a good glitter ball!
The costumes (Watford Palace Theatre, Li-Lee Choo and Sarah Ninot) were fabulous, especially Dame Sarah Sew-n-Sew, whose outrageously over the top dresses were a highlight for me. And villain Deja Vu, who, in his sparkly purple number, looked like a mixture of Dick Dastardly and Julian Clary. The performance by Jonathan D Ellis certainly lived up to the camp costume! Energetically playing up to the booing and hissing and “oh no you don’ts” from the audience, Ellis’s performance was excellent from start to finish.
Dame Sarah Sew-n-Sew, played by Terence Frisch in his tenth year as the dame at Watford Palace, was very, very funny. His impeccable comic timing, knowing winks to the audience, and witty improvised moments demonstrated his natural comic ability, complimented by his ten year experience of damehood.
Beauty and the Beast’s only notable downside was the lack of big chorus numbers. The show was a tremendous spectacle, but the song choices let it down a little, especially as all the performers had great singing voices, so it would have been nice to hear them sing together more often. With a cast of only seven people, it was a little bit lacking in “wow” goosebump moments during the songs. There were group numbers at the start of the second act and the finale which were fantastic, though I do think the performers’ beautiful voices could have been put to more use as a group. That said, the band (made up of Ellie Verkerk, Robin Johnson and Red Fielder-Van Kleeff) were absolutely spot on – from transition music at scene changes, to well-timed drum beats at particularly cheesy jokes. And there were some really lovely songs, a gorgeous duet between Belle (Amiyah Goodall) and Beast (Ben Boskovic) was particularly memorable. They both have stunning voices that compliment each other well.
Overall, this was a marvellous show, and a wonderful way to spend an evening!
Reviewed on 11th December 2022
by Suzanne Curley
Photography by Greta Zabulyte
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