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Beauty and the Beast at The Harlequin, Redhill – panto review

PUBLISHED: 14:23 21 December 2014 | UPDATED: 15:20 22 December 2014

Beauty and the Beast at The Harlequin, Redhill (Photo: Richard Davenport)

Beauty and the Beast at The Harlequin, Redhill (Photo: Richard Davenport)

©Richard Davenport

While I’m the first to admit I love Christmas – the time with the family, trees, mulled wine, carols, stockings, presents – you name it, there is one thing I’ve always struggled with – the ‘Panto’.

I can appreciate the tradition and the slap stick humour my young boys love, but it’s always been slightly lost on me; the cringe worthy double entendres, the dated tunes and the cross dressing!

So it was with some trepidation that I walked up the stairs of The Harlequin, Redhill last Saturday ready to engage in another bout of being asked to shout ‘Oh yes it is’ over and over again! That said my two boys Archie, six, and Cailen, nine, were certainly very excited so I made sure I went in with an open mind.

This year’s production is Beauty and the Beast starring Cheryl Fergison, previously of EastEnders, and Redhill pantomime favourites Neil Wheatley, Simon Bashford and Abigail Welford.

The story on paper sounds like your traditional panto, with Wicked Witch Guillotine casting a spell on the dashing Prince Francois and condemning him to spend two years living as a beast – unless he can be saved by a kiss of true love.

A host of other larger than life characters tell the tale with Professor Rene Crackpot and his crazy inventions, Gerald the village hunk and wannabe heart throb who wants to woo Belle, the caring and comedic Madame Cherie Trifle, and the mischievous and playful Hugo Le Gaff. All very panto, therefore as the lights dimmed and hush descended on the audience I’m delighted to say it didn’t take long for me to realise the error of my prejudging ways.

Cheryl Fergison, who one might expect to think just turning up would be enough, really throws herself into the Wicked Witch Guillotine role with an excellent rendition of Adele’s Rolling in the Deep.

Neil Wheatley playing Hugo is the stand out in terms humour and had both my boys cracking up with laughter, with me joining in.

Furthermore there is some real depth in the story from Abigail Welford (Belle) and Simon Bashford (The Beast/Prince), which is missing from many other pantos, and this is supported by solid production values.

Beauty and the Beast manages to combine excellent humour, up-to-date music and dance routines, depth of story with enough panto traditions to keep everyone happy, and can’t be recommended enough as an excellent and essential family Christmas outing.

And remember that’s coming from someone who doesn’t like panto!

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