Review: Beauty and the Beast at the Harlow Playhouse: “Another fantastic five star performance and production that warmed the hearts of this sell out audience”
Entertainment / Fri 8th Dec 2023 at 10:56am
Beauty and the Beast at the Harlow Playhouse
Harlow Playhouse and KD Theatre Productions
Review: Thursday December 7th.
A PACKED audience were thrilled, entranced and thoroughly entertained at the Harlow Playhouse production of Beauty and the Beast.
As is traditional at YourHarlow, our review is written by three generations of our family. Can the panto entertain across the age divide?
In many ways, Beauty and the Beast is a difficult one to do. Many other pantos (Snow White, Dick Whittington, Cinderella) have the traditional characters whilst Beauty is more of a traditional story.
What this production does very well is bring the big numbers to the fore. The more conventional roles such as Belle Bon Bon (Kellie Gnauck), Morgiana (Joanna O’Hare) and Gastrong (Sam Toland) really get a real chance to shine.
But in order to do that, you really need class acts.
They all have very impressive West End and beyond credentials from Aspects of Love, Bat Out of Hell to the Book of Mormon and their class was clear to everyone to see.
They commanded the stage and brought a real feeling of professionalism and style.
We must also mention the Beast, played by Danny Becker. He probably did have the most traditional role but was also excellent.
What also dazzled us was the use of colour in the whole production. From the green of the opening number to the chocolate box of the finale’s outfits. Once again, this looked like a million dollars.
We happen to think that this might have been Ben Parsley (Silly Billy Bon Bon)) best ever year.
Thursday was a three-show day. How he managed to maintain such high energy levels we have no idea.
His energy and stamina are incredible but at its heart is his comedic and engagement which wins the audience. He is the glue that keeps it together without ever scene stealing. He enhances every scene.
Of course, his partner in crime is Jimmy Burton-Iles, who is a wonderful world weary Madame La Cherry Bon Bon.
He is a master at his craft and has the rare ability to mould his double entendres and throw away lines to suit all the audience.
What alway marks Harlow Playhouse pantos as special is a sense of fun. You do sense the cast are really enjoying themselves.
And when they involve the audience (Twelve Days of Christmas, Mike in the audience) it is just great fun.
This years props were absolutely amazing. The mind machine was hilarious and had great way (again) of involving the audience. The lie detector also enabled a stream of great jokes. And yes, we did get the golf ball joke!
But there were also effects such as snow and petals falling from the roof. It was a really nice touch but also re-inforced that this was a panto for the audience.
There was also one invention perfected (at last) by Billy that was unbelievable. It was worth the price of the ticket alone. Without revealing too much, you shrink, how on earth did they get that on stage (and off again!).
There are some pantos around the country that are performances and could be anywhere. This had the people of Harlow at its heart. Even if it was Harlow-on-the-turn.
This was also a panto that made full use of the theatre. The depth of the stage was used to maximum effect as was the auditorium itself.
Audiences love it when the characters come from the sides and from the back. For children (and some adults) it is like the characters of their favourite television programme have stepped out of the screen and into their homes.
We must also give special mention to the six members of the dance troupe. They had so many different roles and costumes, that it felt like 106 members. Whether wolves or in aerobics outfits, they had such energy, such movement and brought so much to the production.
Each musical number was outstanding. Again, let us praise Harlow Playhouse for continuing to use a live band and a very good one at that.
If you get the programme, turn to the back pages with the production teams. From Director and Writer Daniel Bell, choreographer, Claire Cassidy to role after role after role.
We appreciate this a 365 day production but actually on stage from Dec 1st to January 7th.
Another fantastic five star performance and production that warmed the hearts of this sell out audience and no doubt all the audiences in the jewel in the crown that is Harlow Playhouse’s Beauty and the Beast.
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It was slick, professional, hilarious, astonishing, quality, uproarious entertainment. So enjoyable! Thanks and congratulations to everybody involved.
It was a really enjoyable night With Audience participation throughout The cast were superb full of fun and energy