Beauty and The Beast, The Capitol, Horsham, until Sunday, January 3
As the opening orchestral blast of John Williams’ Star Wars theme kicks in at the start of Beauty and The Beast it’s clear which pop-cultural event is going to be referenced repeatedly in this year’s Capitol panto.
Maybe this is a tad predictable, but the Jedi jokes still get healthy laughs and, to be fair, I don’t think any family show this Christmas could get away with ignoring The Force Awakens.
Besides, Beauty and The Beast isn’t all gags from a galaxy far, far away.
It’s a largely traditional production with material that firmly belongs in a familiar panto universe. There are dazzling costumes, twinkly sound effects, groanworthy puns, and silly slapstick routines, complete, of course, with some obligatory pies in faces.
This year’s show tells the classic story of a prince cursed to live as a Beast until he finds true love. Although fierce and fearsome in appearance, the Beast has a kind heart and hopes to win the affections of a girl from a nearby village, the aptly named Beauty.
As with all Capitol pantomimes Beauty and The Beast offers a fun take on a traditional story, packed with high energy comedy, impressive dance displays and some surprising pyrotechnic effects.
The musical parts are generally very good with songs borrowed from West End favourites, re-written to fit the story and then belted out by the enthusiastic cast.
Karina Hind, giving a joyful performance as Beauty, has a pleasant singing voice, as does Tom Senior, who summons as much vocal power as he can for his big showtune as The Beast.
These songs, when combined with the ornate sets and vibrant colours, give this show a sense of richness that some pantomimes lack, offering the parents something a little more intellectually stimulating.
These moments aside though, Beauty and The Beast’s main goal is entertaining the little ones.
So we have two kid-friendly sidekicks – Mike Goble as D’Jon M’Stard and Olly Pike as DC, both presenting very likeable characters. Olly has all the Star Wars references but Mike gets to teach kids the French for “yes, yes” so they can greet him with those words every time he appears on stage. I wonder why they find that so funny?
Richard Alan, as Professor ‘Doc’ Eclaire, gets a great response too with his Christopher Lloyd in Back to the Future impression. His inventions are as ridiculous as they are useless and are repeatedly laughed off the stage.
Even Dani Acors, this panto’s Good Fairy, gets to indulge in some zany behaviour. Her Enchantress goes undercover throughout the tale, popping up here and there as an eccentric bake-off judge and French Resistance member straight off the set of ‘Allo ‘Allo!
Turning to the Dark Side briefly, Andrew Hayden-Smith plays a loathsome villain in the form of Danon, a man whose name mysteriously triggers a jingle for a certain brand of yogurt. Danon is a mean-spirited bully and liar who turns the young audience against him immediately by telling the children how stupid they are. (Boo! Hiss!)
All the performers are very entertaining in this show but my favourite has to be Alex Wadham as the Dame, Madamoiselle Renée Tasse de Thé.
Bizarrely dressed, quick-witted and blessed with a strong singing voice, he’s simply a delight from beginning to end. He’s also the first traditional dame in a Capitol pantomime for four years.
It’s been worth the wait.
Call 01403 750220 or visit www.thecapitolhorsham.com to book tickets.
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