Tag Archives: James Williams

Beauty and the Beast

Beauty and the Beast


Watford Palace Theatre

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST at the Watford Palace Theatre


Beauty and the Beast


“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


More top rated shows this month:


Ghosted – Another F**king Christmas Carol | ★★★★★ | The Other Palace | December 2022
Orlando | ★★★★ | Garrick Theatre | December 2022
Bugsy Malone | ★★★★★ | Alexandra Palace | December 2022


Click here to read all our latest reviews




The Other Palace



The Other Palace

Reviewed – 5th September 2019



“The strong performances cannot mask the fact that Falsettos feels disparate, and as though it’s lacking a voice”


Falsettos opens with Four Jews in a Room Bitching. Or that’s the name of the opening number, anyway. It’d be difficult to tell otherwise, since it’s not especially clear where they are, or why they’re there. And they don’t even appear to be doing much bitching. Although this musical’s no stranger to it, as anyone who’s been on Twitter in the past few weeks will know that it’s been mired in controversy for its lack of Jewish representation in a story that allegedly pivots around Judaism. That certainly didn’t seem to be the focal point of this production, however, but then it’s also difficult to say what was.

Originally conceived as a trilogy of one-act musicals by William Finn and James Lapine, Falsettos is a conglomeration of In Trousers, March of the Falsettos, and Falsettoland. It centres on Marvin (Daniel Boys), a man trying to maintain his relationship with his ex-wife Trina (Laura Pitt-Pulford) and son Jason (Albert Atack in this performance) after having come out as gay and left them for his boyfriend Whizzer (Oliver Savile). Things take a further complication when Marvin’s shrink Mendel (Joel Montague) becomes romantically involved with Trina, as the show reflects on the wealth of different loves one can experience, and the non-conventional forms it can blossom in.

While its depiction of homosexuality and non-traditional families may have been controversial in the ’80s when March of the Falsettos debuted, the messy story leaves it feeling lacking in substance in today’s (slightly) more accepting climate. It’s hugely noticeable that Falsettos is three musicals stitched together, as characters leap from moment to moment in their arcs without any time being allowed to let these changes develop organically, or for them to settle effectively. The love between Mendel and Trina, for example, feels unearned when most of the buildup is Mendel lecherously fantasising about her during his meetings with Marvin. Finn’s music, too, robs a number of scenes of their emotional heft as nigh-on every song takes on a quirky, light-hearted tone – the impact of darker elements such as domestic violence and terminal illness is completely undermined when underscored by major chords.

However, in a number of moments, the levity of the music, as well as its enjoyably unpredictable use of tempo and key changes, is utilised excellently in numbers such as The Baseball Game, and Pitt-Pulford delivers the stand-out performance in I’m Breaking Down. Boys has superb comic timing, and the mesh of the company’s voices is truly beautiful, although two of them – lesbian couple Cordelia (Natasha J Barnes) and Charlotte (Gemma Knight-Jones) – don’t appear at all until the second act – another sign of the unpolished unification of separate pieces.

The strong performances cannot mask the fact that Falsettos feels disparate, and as though it’s lacking a voice. The chessboard set from PJ McEvoy is superfluous, trying to force a metaphor that simply isn’t in the text, and Tara Overfield-Wilkinson’s direction favours chasing laughs over emotional honesty. Whether these issues stem from the absence of Jewish voices in the rehearsal room, or are just an overall problem with the production will no doubt be the subject of further Twitter debates – either way, Falsettos is missing the specificity that lets it truly land.


Reviewed by Ethan Doyle

Photography by The Standout Company



The Other Palace until 23rd November


Previously reviewed at this venue:
Eugenius! | ★★★★ | February 2018
Suicide | ★★★½ | May 2018
Bromance: The Dudesical | ★★★★ | October 2018
Murder for Two | ★★★★ | December 2018
The Messiah | ★★★★ | December 2018
Toast | ★★★ | April 2019


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