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Beauty and the Beast review at Central Theatre, Chatham – ‘patchy’

Beauty and the Beast at Central Theatre, Chatham. Photo: Martin Smith Beauty and the Beast at Central Theatre, Chatham. Photo: Martin Smith
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This show ought to have a lot going for it, given Julie Godfrey’s magnificent sets (although it’s shame to cover and not use Central Theatre’s side stage staircases), a fresh and authentically French take on the plot and delightful music which includes traditional songs, Jacques Offenbach, Abba, I Love Paris (in the springtime) and even a bit of Gilbert and Sullivan, rather than relentless pop. In fact, it falls flat.

Stevi Richie is dull and unfunny as Potty Pierre and Michael Neilson’s Dame Dotty is only marginally better. Most of their routines are stale and boring. When two such central and essential stereotypes fail to come off, what you are left with is a story with songs and dances rather than a successful pantomime. The script has too few funny jokes and they’re not delivered to the best effect. Sue Holderness as Malevolent is about as scary as a blancmange and she’s a weak singer, although she does a pretty good tap dance.

As a story, however, it’s quite enjoyable. Stephen Barry as the Prince/Beast is by far the best thing in this show. A very charismatic actor, despite his youth, he plays the Prince initially as an entertaining fop, then cursed, tragic beast, before emerging triumphant and reformed at the end. His singing is the best I’ve heard in a pantomime for a long time. He deserves to go far. Katie Ray does well as Beauty alongside him, and she too is a fine singer.

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Verdict
A patchy effort, with delightful musicians a strong story, but weak comic performances
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