Beauty and the Beast, Waterfront Hall, Belfast, December 4, 2018

By Conor O’Neill

With P. J O’Reilly behind the keyboard, Lisa May directing and Martin Lynch and Liam Mullan producing, how possibly can the Waterfront’s Beauty and the Beast go wrong?You’ll be glad to read that the story, one we all love and know, has, by those named above and a fantastic crew been turned on its head, though thankfully retaining the original’s charm.

Kids and adults will howl with laughter as the evil Princess Rotten tries to claim the heart and soul of the Beast (Garry Crossan) which is failing as the white rose petals in the pal… paw of his hand fall.
If Only he had a beautiful, pure Belle (Sharon Duffy) to kiss him and break the curse!

B & B 5 Beasty and beast cover shot

The belle does exist, and shares the same name. Sharon Duffy’s portrayal oof Belle is top notch. She looks the part, is all charming and meek  but going gets tough, her meekness disappears.

Of course, though we might be here for a little bit of Christmas good will, but, c’mon it’s a panto. And that means only one thing a Dame. Enter, knock a wall down, for Dame Danny B. Gordon Crawford is a man you’d rather not pick a scrap with. Try telling that to Nanny B who’s sure she Vogue cover material. Kennel Club Monthly seems a more likely publication.

As with all pantos most begin with a look at the audience. House lights up and Nanny B squints: “What! Everybody’s stinking, for a moment there I thought I was in Lisburn!” All mail from Lisburn readers to be sent directly to Nanny B in PantoLand

B & B 4.jpg

Of course we have the Tulip sisters, something akin to the evil sisters from Cinderella – I told you other pantos get wedgied; Snow White, Goldilocks, the Gingerbread Man gets an ‘offer’ he simply cannot refuse. The sisters aren’t all bad, though, just looking a way out of poverty. Prince Ponce (Gavin Pedan) is an upper crust twit searching his realm with a glass slipper. Nanny B tries her luck but Harland & Wolfe probably get the order to cover them  monstrosities.

The story stick to the original as Dame B and her brood have little to live on: “Last Christmas we were so broke we went to KFC and lick other people’s fingers!”

Every dame needs a nemesis, enter Fairy Rotten,(Rosie McClelland), speaking in a Transylvanian accent every time she introduces herself it comes out as Very Rotten.  The evil one tries to part Belle from the beast: ” I vill, I vill, I vill!”

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Her sidekick wolves aren’t the only canines to grace the stage, Bodacious, the family pet makes impromptu somewhat confusing entrances but only adds to the joy as every time he appears we’re encouraged to sing-a-long to Who Let The Dogs out. Fairy Pretty  gets another short sing-a-long as “She is handsome, she is pretty, she is the girl from Belfast Coty.” accompanies her arrival.

As with all shows Lisa May is involved with the set is simple yet utterly effective. Huge stained glass type structures hang at the rear of the stage, lighting alone changes mood. Scene changes are simple with doors, chairs and other props wheeled on when needed and while other theatres have went big on the budget there’s little lack of wonderment here. One small child behind me asked her mum: “Is this real, mummy?” “Yes, it’s only a story, make believe, honey!” came the soothing answer.

After a  rousing five or more minutes of ovation, Deirdre Ash was invited on stage for her 13th year of service to the GBL team. Nanny B, never one to miss a beat invited Martin Lynch on too starting: “Ya may as well get up here an all, sure you look like Santa!”

Will Very Rotten get evil way, will the last petal fall from the rose? Will the charm be broken? Will Nanny B find hubby find her 17tth hubby?

For a fab night of family friendly Christmas fun, take a trip to the Waterfront and I can  assure you will have a ball.

The Waterfront’s box office number is: 02890 334455 or visit http://www.waterfront.co.uk

Beauty and the Beast runs until and including December 6, 2018

 

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