Panto season is upon us once again as Wales’ biggest pantomime hits the stage at Cardiff’s New Theatre. Beauty and The Beast is a show filled with festive fun for all the family, featuring famous faces, from Gareth Thomas to Lisa Riley.
This beloved fairy tale follows the story of Belle and her friends as they find themselves in the castle of a cursed prince. Can she save the selfish Beast before the final petal of the enchanted rose falls, or will his selfishness cost him love and the fate of all who live in his enchanted castle?
Belle is played by Naomi Slights, whose theatre credits include Saturday Night Fever (Royal Caribbean International and UK Tour) and Priscilla Queen of the Desert (UK tour). Her background in musical theatre shows as she brilliantly performs well-known songs, including some from hit movie-musical The Greatest Showman.
Ben Richards, known for his roles in Hollyoaks, The Bill and Holby City, transforms into the Beast for this performance, a role he previously played in Beauty and The Beast in Nottingham last year.
Gareth Thomas is an iconic figure in Welsh rugby, and now he returns to the New Theatre – where he made his pantomime debut in 2014 – with a crowd-pleasing performance as Alfie. He shows off his sporting skills and superb personality.
Having made her way to the semi-final of Strictly Come Dancing in 2013, TV’s Lisa Riley gets a chance to demonstrate her dancing skills. Her experience in panto shows as she delivers a warm, entertaining performance as the castle’s housekeeper, Mrs Potts.
Writer, comedian and actor Edward Rowe provides amusing audience interaction as Calvin Kipling, Belle’s comically hapless friend, but his on-stage mother steals the show: Mike Doyle’s Kylie Kipling. Doyle won Opportunity Knocks in 1988 and has since become a British Comedy Award-winner, singer, comedian and actor. His role as the dame entertained with a number of cheeky gags, providing some comedy for the adults in the audience. One scene in particular, which shouldn’t be spoiled, had Gareth Thomas himself laughing on stage.
Another enjoyable performance came from Danny Bayne as Clarence Bridge, an arrogant hunter pursuing Belle, delivering sneering lines in a snobbish tone. Cardiff’s own Stephanie Webber plays her first baddie as Deadly Nightshade, a complete change from her role as Snow White in last year’s pantomime at the New Theatre.
This panto differs from the classic retelling of the fairy tale. Some extra tension is added as Deadly Nightshade takes on the role of a traditional panto villain, aided by the fearsome kraken. The special effects were impressive as the monster dangled above the audience, receiving some ‘wows’ from children watching. This exciting pre-interval action scene provided entertainment for children who may not have been interested in the fairy tale aspect.
Beauty and The Beast is filled with laughs, action and songs, a treat for the whole family this festive season. The panto runs until Sunday 13 January 2019. Tickets are available from the box office on (029) 2087 8889 and www.newtheatrecardiff.co.uk
Review by Alys Jones