Upon entering Harrogate Theatre, elegant Christmas decorations have been hung, and harmonic sounds from the Harrogate Theatre Choir fill the air. The grand decoration of the venue, following its 2011 refurbishment, contributes to the flamboyant energy emitted by this quintessential family pantomime, Beauty and the Beast.
The stage is enclosed by a superb backdrop, awash with sparkle, glamour and lights. The opening scene bursts with energy and talent as we meet some of the cast along with the local Harrogate dancers, kicking off the show with their dynamic version of Shut Up and Dance by Walk the Moon. Phil Stewart is dame Pam Au Chocolat, causing belly-laughs aplenty from the opening scenes, and setting the bar high for the rest of the performance.
Tom Bainbridge is a very convincing Beast with some extremely strong vocals, delivering a beautiful rendition of Greatest Day by Take That during the first act. He later joins Belle, played by Maisey Bawden, for a stunning version of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast classic song, Tale as Old as Time.
Tim Stedman really needs to take an extra bow at the end of this show, having given one of the most spectacular performances as Muddles. He has the audience laughing from the start, right until the last moment with his hilarious mime sequence.
Katy Deans plays the evil pantomime villain Mona Lisa thoroughly, receiving boos from the kids and boasting probably the best costumes of the production. Her version of Shout Out to My Ex by Little Mix was a real hit with the audience. Vocally impeccable, she shows off dance moves as though they were straight out of a pop video. The cast is put to the test a couple of times with some technical glitches, but smooth it over like the professionals they are.
The stage is an aesthetically pleasing tribute to its designers Richard Foxton and lighting designer Alexandra Stafford. Lighting spills over the audience on many occasions, making you feel as though you are part of the action. Written with eclectic flair, spectacularly enabling all ages to enjoy and relate to the language and themes: Real credit due to Phil Lowe and David Bown. Every inch of the stage is used, including part of the auditorium, allowing the choreography by Sophie Zealand to really make an impact. Costumes were lacking a little for some of the cast members and could have just done with a bit more oomph, but otherwise were bright and striking.