Beauty & the Beast

David Phipps-Davis, Guy Pascall, Charlie Richmond
Enchanted Entertainment
Tyne Theatre and Opera House

Amelle Berrabah and Charlie Richmond
The Beast and Belle
The cast of Beauty & the Beast

The original story, La Belle et la Bête, written by a successful French novelist and fairy tale writer, Gabrielle Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve, was published in 1740. The tale was inspired by the true life romance of Petrus Gonsalivus and his fiancée Catherine, nothing stranger than fact. Enchanted Entertainment has fittingly set the story in France, which also gives extra opportunities for humour.

Puff of smoke and whoosh, enter Fairy Sugababe, traditional fairy with a big wand, its panto time. The opening number, "Can-Can Medley", quickly follows set in the village of Chateau De Toilette with a magnificent group of 12 dancers, choreographed by Kerry Blaskett-Weatherall. Dame Brenda Brexit enters keeping the tempo up and then ‘his’ son, Daveed Granola, continues the momentum. The pace continues with each scene and character.

The well-known story of love conquering all, heart shining through, unfolds. Newcastle lass Beth Clarke plays Belle with fellow Geordie J J Hamblett as her Prince / Beast. This is the eighth year Lewis Denny is the Dame and it shows, he is so at home on the stage. Charlie Richmond playing Daveed Granola, appearing in his 15th Tyne Theatre pantomime, equally puts the audience at ease, involving them from the off.

J J Hamlett is no stranger to the music business having topped the charts among other musical successes; the fairy Amelle Berrabah of Sugababes also has had worldwide success selling over 12 million albums and numerous top ten hit records; Clarke has a degree in Musical Theatre; Micky Cochrane, as Anton Du Beck, is in a band and appeared in award-winning musicals with Richmond who also trained in musical theatre, so a brilliant group of trained experienced, singers which shows in the numbers. The musical numbers are further enhanced by a fantastic live band under the musical direction of Andrew Soulsby.

The writers David Phipps-Davis, Guy Pascall and Charlie Richmond have delivered a panto true to its roots, every scene connects and involves the audience; this is not surprising considering the wealth of pantomime experience they share. Phipps-Davis is not only a singer and writer but a seasoned actor who has also played numerous dames, Pascall is a known writer and directs pantomimes while Richmond has 15 years' panto experience at this theatre alone.

Not even a brilliant script, packed with a host of top stars, international singers and North East’s home-grown talent, guarantees success. The person who waves the magic wand bringing it all together is the director. David Janson, among his many productions, has directed over two dozen pantomimes alone and has acting experience; this extensive experience undoubtedly plays a big part in the polish of this show. It is packed with humour and slapstick aimed at all ages, and it is just as well the actors can be heard loud and clear as the continuous laughter from the audience may have drown them out.

While it is in the nature of things for certain traditions to fade and die, some are still maintained in this production. The act of bringing audience, young and old, onto the stage, physically involving them, produces great enjoyment and creates everlasting memories. Pantomime is generally the first, if not only experience a child may have of theatre, so it should leave an impression to cherish. It is less common for cast to go into the audience and directly interact with them and not just with a water gun, not so at The Tyne theatre and if you want to see what a walk-down should look like, you are in for a visual costume delight, courtesy of Mark Hudson.

This Enchanted Entertainment production is just that, an enchanted evening of engaging, enthralling entertainment, oh yes it is—the packed theatre certainly thought so.

Reviewer: Anna Ambelez

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