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Beauty and the Beast review at Corn Exchange, Newbury – ‘slickly choreographed’

The cast of Beauty and the Beast at Corn Exchange, Newbury. Photo: Savannah Photographic The cast of Beauty and the Beast at Corn Exchange, Newbury. Photo: Savannah Photographic

Phil Willmott has set himself a challenge by adapting the story of Beauty and the Beast for Newbury Corn Exchange’s pantomime, given the popularity of the film. An audience expecting charming, dancing household objects may be disappointed. However, fantastical transformations and the core love story remain.

The production includes some of the songs from the original film but changes the words (“Be our guest” becomes “Be a wolf”), and introduces some new characters. Added to this are a number of classic tunes, from Moana to the Time Warp, delivered harmoniously by the ensemble to slickly choreographed routines by Holly Hughes.

Danny Stokes gives a supremely irritating performance as Cuthbert, Belle’s aristocratic cousin, adding “oh yeah, cool” to every single sentence. More likeable is the merry, orphaned village postie, Posy (Emma Fraser). The double act of Lilly (Amy Christina Murray) and Pickle (Joshua Coley), Beast’s half-wolf servants, provides a good dollop of comic relief. They encourage the audience to try out their best wolf howls.

However, it’s the non-human characters in Beauty and the Beast that steal the show, through some excellent puppetry: a magnificent dragon puppet that breathes fire, and two wolf heads that exchange corny jokes during scene changes.

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A musical pantomime that doesn’t quite deliver a tale as old as time