Review: Enchanted Entertainment presents Beauty & the Beast at Tyne Theatre

Review: Enchanted Entertainment presents Beauty & the Beast at Tyne Theatre

Beauty and the Beast

Tyne Theatre and Opera House

30th March 2024

Fresh from the swashbuckling success of their Christmas pantomime Peter Pan, Enchanted Entertainment are back at The Tyne Theatre and Opera House with their Easter offering Beauty and the Beast with some familiar faces and an all star line up. It certainly does not disappoint but you will have to be quick if you want to see it because the talented cast are heading off on their gruelling UK tour after another two show tomorrow (Easter Sunday.)

A fairly new concept for a pantomime, Beauty and the Beast tells the story of beautiful but disenchanted bookworm Belle (Ellena Bacon) who dreams of more excitement than her humdrum life in a small village in France and to be whisked away by the man of her dreams. The aforementioned man is certainly not the arrogant and conceited Gaviscon (Barney Harwood.) Completing Belle’s family is her mam, Dame Betty Baguette (Lewis Denny) and Silly Billy (Steve Royle.)

Belle’s love interest comes in the form of a hideous beast (Lee Latchford-Evans) who has been cursed until he can mend his selfish ways and learn to love and be loved in return. To make sure the story has a satisfactory ending and guiding the players through the story is Éclair’y Fairy (Carma Hylton.)

After a short and entertaining overture from musical director (Jezz Weatherall) who also doubles as sound designer and operator on this tour, the fairy bursts onto the stage and introduces the action.  One of the things I really like about Enchanted Entertainment’s pantomimes is that the songs carry the story along, are well thought out and considered and are never too long. The running gag of Steps numbers randomly being played (for obvious reasons) was fun and playful. 

The set, from Scenic Projects, is everything that you want from a pantomime set and very much enhances the action happening in front of it. 

Returning for the umpteenth time as Dame is local lad, Lewis Denny, who is so comfortable in his bra and knickers these days, it would be hard to imagine a pantomime at The Tyne Theatre and Opera House without his dulcet tones and wonderful singing voice. Steps alumni Lee Latchford-Evans plays the handsome prince and not, perhaps, so handsome beast confidently and the production utilises his beautiful vocals very effectively indeed. 

Regulars of the pantomimes at this venue are used to seeing the role of the comic played either by the hilarious Charlie Richmond or the irrepressible Bobby Davro both of whom have a huge and loyal following so it is a brave man indeed who steps into these very large boots to fill. Comedian, actor, radio presenter and juggler Steve Royle did just that and very successfully too. He has a lovely blend of stupid and savvy that the audience really responds too. His juggling with some very cumbersome articles was very impressive too. 

One of the problems with the story (particularly following the Disney narrative) of Beauty and the Beast is that the lines of the baddie are somewhat blurred and the de facto baddie – in this case Gaviscon (Gaston) – is a character full of masculine toxicity but not downright evil – he’s just a bit of a twit. Taking on this difficult character within the expectations of pantomime is children’s TV presenter Barney Harwood and he plays the role to absolute perfection offering a blend of natural good looks, wilful arrogance, excellent stage presence and clowning, and just a soupçon of camp which really worked for me. I have no doubt whatsoever that Barney is relishing playing this role and seems to be enjoying every second of being the one the audience boos and hisses.

There are some lovely touches in Enchanted Entertainment’s production of Beauty and the Beast including a delightful technique employed during the inevitable love song in the second act. All the staples of a great pantomime are there including the ghost scene, brilliant choreography, (Kerry Blasket-Weatherall) some slapstick, audience participation and jokes to keep the parents amused too. The whole cast, crew and creatives can be proud of a job well done. 

Beauty and the Beast continues at The Tyne Theatre and Opera House for two more performances ton 31st March before travelling to venues including, but not limited to, Croydon, Dorking, Ipswich, Kings Lynn, Portsmouth, and Swindon and I wish everyone well for a most successful tour. Enchanted Entertainment returns to The Tyne Theatre and Opera House in December with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Tickets are available now online and from the Tyne Theatre’s box office.

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