Review: Beauty and the Beast ****

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The Carriageworks, Leeds

More of a fairytale drama, it is not an easy task to give Beauty and the Beast the pantomime treatment but Paul Holman’s production pulls out all the stops.

As Count Christi Monto and the Beast, Ben Palmer is amazing. He has a fine voice, perfect mannerisms in both roles and, above all, the ability to create an air of pathos in the final scenes, whilst Abigail Welford is a wistful Beauty who blends beautifully with the Beast in the musical numbers.

Holman productions usually have a good strong comedy team and this year is no exception. There’s high energy comedy for the third year running from Jez Edwards, as Pierre, a firm favourite with children.

Paul Leno is Madame Fifi Camembert who must be one of the best of the new generation of panto dames. His cutting edge humour and comic timing, combined with his array of garish costumes (how does he walk, run and dance all night in those six inch heels) are pure gold.

As panto baddie Witch Hazel, Denise Nolan seems to be struggling with her character at times to find the right level, so some tiny tots in the audience asked if she was a fairy.

But she does come into her own finally with a Lady Ga Ga number – if only she could have been seen through the over-zealous emissions of the smoke machine.

Beauty and the Beast is traditional family pantomime at its best, guaranteed to appeal to both the young and not-so-young at heart.

To January 7.