Beauty and the Beast at the Broadway: A brilliant watch, no matter how old you are
PUBLISHED: 17:00 11 December 2018
Local paper journalists may not get to review West End musicals or critique Michelin star restaurants – but they do get to enjoy the festive spectacle that is the local pantomime.
This year, the stage at Barking’s Broadway Theatre set its sights on France with a reworking of the classic fairtyale, Beauty and the Beast.
The scene is set by Fairy Flambe, played by Amelia Walker, who introduces us to the beautiful Belle, bored in her tiny town, and the Prince, who’s on the lookout for love.
Things quickly turn sour when the Prince meets the evil witch Grimalkin, who curses him for calling her ugly (serves him right, really), and he turns into a hideous beast.
We watch in horror as the handsome Prince becomes isolated and angry, and when Belle’s father stumbles upon his castle, the Prince cruelly threatens to keep him hostage. In a deal, Belle agrees to replace her father as the captive, so he can leave and fulfill his dream of being on ‘Le Dragon’s Den’ (no translation required).
Helped along by castle workers Dame Dolly Doughnut, her son Franc, and Belle’s faithful dog Tilly, Belle and the Prince embark on a love story that’s full of cliches, terrible panto jokes, and ultimately, a really entertaining watch.
While this reporter may have been sceptical about watching a show that’s made for children, I’m not too stubborn to eat my own words. While the acting was at times patchy, and the shoe-horning of modern pop songs into the script wasn’t entirely natural, it was easy to get immersed in the fun.
Dame Dolly Doughnut, played brilliantly by Andy Brennan, was camp, witty and made enough jokes about Barking and Dagenham Council to keep us all happy.
The pantomime staples, like having sweets hurled at your face and an audience soaking during a water fight, were entertaining even for us older ones, and there was a healthy dose of cuteness brought by the surprisingly well-trained Tilly.
And althought the night ended in a baffling rendition of Baby Shark, (a phenomenon this reporter had previously never heard of), I was left admitting that actually, you’re never too old for pantomime.
The panto, produced by Polka Dot Pantomimes, will be running until New Year’s Eve. To book, click here.