Monday, 20 December 2021

REVIEW: Beauty and the Beast at the Poole Lighthouse

The Poole Lighthouse programme very carefully describes the origins of the Beauty and the Beast story as being from 1537 when Petrus was treated as a wild animal and was married to Catherine and suggests that elements of the story are shared with the myth of Cupid and Psyche. It became a published story in 1740 as Beauty and the Beast but is perhaps best known to current generations from the 1991 Disney Film promoted as “a tale as old as time”. 

Chris Jarvis’s script turns an Andrew Pollard version of the story into a pantomime creating French-speaking characters living in Paris who are transported to Poole under the watchful eye of Cupid with the sub-billing “a tale as old as pantomime” and takes the role of Dame Betty BonBon as well as directing the show. It gives the story a fresh, up to date look with a fun feel-good flavour that entertains young and old in the best traditions of Pantomime. They keep the run time tight, ensure the songs flow out of the narrative and litter the script with the usual mix of old and new jokes (not all of which land) and some double entendre. 

Jarvis leads the cast in the pantomime business with a patter song that lists sweets to the music of the can-can, a tongue twister Sugar Ships routine, an excellent bedroom ghost sketch which used the set very well, a baking scene (“one egg is an Ouef”) and the twelve days of Christmas with props adjusted to give it a French flavour. The business feels like it flows from the script and has not been shoehorned in. 

The music is varied with a band of six-under Musical Director Darren Reeves including “Voulez-Vous”, Nina Simone’s “I put a spell on you”, Lizzo’s “Juice”, Ed Sheehan’s “Bad Habits” and “Chanson D’Amour” using the Young Ensemble as the Cupettes to support the Principals. Michelle Collins is a confident strong villainous Nightshade, Alice Rose Fletcher a sweet, charming Belle opposite Wade Lewin’s rather too gentle Beast and Ross Ericson provide a comedy foil for the Dame as Marzipan. Cupid, a picture in pink, is played by Tom Mann and gets his own love interest in Georgia Grant-Anderson’s social media influencer SoufflĂ©. 

The show is beautifully lit by James Smith, under some pretty portals with illuminated cupids’ arrows and a good mix of light and shade. There are some good cloths like the Poole Quay and sets like Bonbon’s shop, and although the Beast’s castle was disappointing there is a very effective projection of the rose with its petals dropping onto the stage.

This is a good production that takes risks and shows what can be achieved with a deep understanding of pantomime tradition, good music selection and a hard-working cast, even when budgets are restricted by the Venue’s size or location. That result is a credit to Chris Jarvis whose debut as a Dame after over twenty-five years as a leading man demonstrates what he has learned from working with the likes of Su Pollard, Andrew Ryan, Kevin Johns, Nick Wilton, and Matthew Kelly over those years. And not once do you wish for Disney’s “Be Our Guest” from the film but instead sit back and enjoy being a Guest of this welcoming venue. 

Review by Nick Wayne 

Rating: ★★★★

Seat: Stalls, Row L | Price of Ticket: £35
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