Beauty and the Beast

Jon Monie
Martin Dodd for UK Productions
The Anvil Basingstoke

The Ensemble

It was good to be back at The Anvil in Basingstoke for its lavish sparkling pantomime Beauty and the Beast written by Jon Monie.

This well-known story of a selfish Prince, who is cursed by a mysterious enchantress to spend his days as a grotesque monster until he regains his humanity by winning a young woman’s love, has an important message: not to judge someone by their looks but by what they’re like on the inside.

We are welcomed to the French village of Waterloo by our dame Polly La Plonk, a superb performance by Nick Wilton. His outlandish costumes are a delight.

Joining Polly is the effervescent Chris Pizzey as Louis La Plonk, who also directs. He quickly has the kids wanting to join his gang and skilfully established a cheeky rapport with the enthusiastic audience. They make a formidable duo.

Maria Coyne gives a captivating performance as the beautiful Belle and sings beautifully. However, the arrogant, self-centred, chauvinistic Hugo (Michael Quinn) is determined to woo and marry Belle and is our true ‘baddy’ that deserved the audience's loud boos. Belle of course refuses to marry him. She’s a feisty girl.

Her father Clement (Marcus Knibbs) has hit hard times and, penniless, is forced to sell one of his paintings in the town but loses his way in a storm and ends up at the Beast’s castle and his taken captive.

Joe McFadden is outstanding as the Beast, fully embracing the role and totally convincing. He has a powerful singing voice and an impressive, commanding stage presence.

Belle eventually finds her father and takes his place, agreeing to stay with the Beast in return for his release. Slowly, they both get to know each other and fall in love. In a dazzling transformation scene, the Beast returns to being the Prince and of course there is a happy ending.

There are many magical moments in this family pantomime. The ghost sketch was a huge hit and the baking scene of baguettes hilarious and awful funny puns and jokes with local references abound.

There is excellent support from the talented dancers (choreography by Sarah Louise Day).

This is a fun-filled festive feast of a production. Très Bien!

Reviewer: Robin Strapp