The New Theatre’s panto combines genuine musical and comedy talent with affable rugby hero, Gareth ‘Alfie’ Thomas.
Alfie’s slowly becoming a stage veteran and he holds his own well here as a comic sidekick, aided expertly by Mike Doyle – a terrific dame – and musical star Danny Bayne as the stupidly spiteful Clarence. Meanwhile, Lisa Riley’s Mrs Potts emerges as the unlikely emotional heart of the story, as well as chivvying events along with aplomb.
But for all the gusto in the cast, there’s a sense of panto-by-numbers to Qdos Entertainment’s production with elements of the design and costumes looking tired. The budget appears to be piled into the show’s standout technical moment: a 30-foot Kraken that rises from the moat of the Beast’s castle – an impressive mechanical puppet whose head dips into the balconies before stretching high into the circle. It’s genuinely thrilling, especially with the added effect of children’s gleeful screams. A shame it wasn’t saved for later in the show rather than the first half.
The highlights, unsurprisingly, are the comic set pieces and musical numbers. Edward Rowe – this story’s Buttons role – recites a clever tale of a romantic date using nothing but a box of chocolates to demonstrate (you had to be there but, trust me, it was very funny) and Doyle and gang perform a great skit with spoons and pans.
Naomi Slights (Belle) and Ben Richards (the Beast) stir emotions with a Greatest Showman song recited by many of the children in the audience.