1 December 2014 to 4 January 2015
Reviewed by Joanne Watson
The Worcester Swan Theatre is right on my doorstep, but I have never been there before. We go to a pantomime every year, but usually choose one of the larger productions in Birmingham or Wolverhampton. However, after experiencing the Swan Theatres production last night, I would definitely choose to come back here next year and for years after that. It was brilliant! It exceeded all of my expectations and more. It was most definitely on a par with every other pantomime I have experienced, and in many ways, even better!
The theatre itself was easy to find with lots of car parking spaces available. On entering the foyer we could see there was a bar with a seating area, a smaller ‘shop’ selling snacks and drinks, photos from the show on display and a stand selling children’s light up toys. Of course I had to buy one of these toys for my son, but I thought it was a nice touch and it showed me that this was going to be a very child friendly performance. All the toys were reasonably priced between £2 and £4.
The staff we spoke to were courteous and helpful. We quickly found our seats which were extremely well located right in the centre. Christmas music was playing and the atmosphere was fabulous. On stage we could see a large rose in a cage, giving us a sneak preview of what was to come. We could also see the pit, where musicians would be playing live music throughout the show. The theatre was packed out and the show began promptly.
A medley of music started with the classic Disney version of ‘Beauty and the Beast’, followed by the ‘Frozen’ track, ‘Love is an open door’, then in to ‘Pretty Woman’. This gave the audience a taste of some of the music that would be included in the performance. Then on came Delores, the bad fairy, who was brilliantly wicked and had all the audience booing within minutes!
The cast consisted of Belle, the Prince/Beast, Pierre, Belle’s father, Dolores, the hilarious Dame Doo Doo, and approximately 12 other dancers from children to young adults. Every member of the cast clearly understood the concept of a ‘pantomime’ and played up to the audience in classic pantomime style.
The dancing was energetic and fun, starting off dancing to the track ‘Shake it off’ making the show current and appealing to the younger members of the audience. Dame Doo Doo held the show together in traditional pantomime Dame style, and surprised everyone by entering the stage via the audience! Dame Doo Doo announced birthdays and had the whole audience singing along.
Audience participation was high. There was a cake making scene where the audience ended up getting squirted with water; a very funny ‘selfie’ sketch where Dame Doo Doo came in to the audience again taking selfies with people, which she announced would be uploaded on to twitter with the hashtag #damedoodoo, and children were selected from the audience to help sing a song at the end. One particular man on the front row caught the attention of Dame Doo Doo and was constantly spoken about thereafter.
Another excellent scene was when the stage fell in to total darkness, so nothing could be seen but a few fluorescent props, and then fluorescent characters came on. These were obviously being held by people dressed in black, but the overall effect was brilliant. There were witches flying, and skeletons dancing!
As the show progressed, the petals from the large caged flower kept on falling, indicating how much time the beast had left to get Belle to fall in love with him. To be honest, I am not sure how they did that, but the effect was brilliant!
Although the story followed the traditional one, there were a few nods to the Disney version which was great for the younger children who only know that version. There was a scene where household items came to life, which was executed brilliantly. Belle also wore the Disney trademark yellow dress towards the end, which was stunning. The costumes throughout were excellent – traditional pantomime style with lots of sequins, glitter and wigs!
My sons favourite scene was where Belles father, Pierre and Dame Doo Doo were walking through a forest and a ghost comes along. While the three are singing, the ghost scares both Belles father and Pierre away. When he sees Dame Doo Doo, the ghost ran off screaming. This had my son in absolute stitches!
This pantomime ticked all the classic pantomime boxes, which I feel has been lacking at some of the larger pantomimes I have seen. There was lots of booing and cheering, lots of ‘oh no it isn’t/oh yes it is’ type banter, custard pies, sword fighting, ‘it’s behind you!’ moments – I could go on! The music was a mixture of old and new, including ‘Love is an open door’, ‘My generation’, ‘Locomotion’, ‘Dancing in the street’ and ‘Now I’m a believer’. There were nods toward current trends with references to Frozen, twitter, selfies, hashtags, One Direction and Harry Styles.
The acting was over stated, as it should be in panto. All lines were remembered, but there was ad-libbing too which was hilarious. The singing was flawless. Clearly all members of the cast were great singers, especially the Beast when he sang ‘All by myself’ as a solo.
My 8 year old son and I had such a great night. This pantomime is a must see this year, and we will definitely be returning to see more productions at the Swan Theatre in Worcester. Well done to all the cast members – an incredible performance by all.
Tickets cost from £10.95 to £15.95
Beauty and the Beast is at the Swan Theatre in Worcester until 4 January 2015. For more information or to book tickets click here or call the box office on 01905 611 427.
Swan Theatre. The Moors, Worcester, WR1 3ED | 01905 611 427