The festive season is upon us and with theatres now open again after a tough couple of years I have been itching to get back to them so when The Anvil in Basingstoke invited us along to review their Beauty and The Beast Panto I was really excited – as were the kids of course; their very first panto!
On arrival there was already a great atmosphere building amongst both the kids and the adults. People were laughing and hugging friends and family, taking photos, wearing Christmas jumpers and it just felt like that bit of normality we’ve all been waiting for this Christmas.
The queues were being well managed by the staff members to get the tickets scanned and audience through quickly. We were greeted at the Box Office to collect our tickets by a staff member who was smily, polite and helpful. As we went through to have our tickets checked, we were informed where the different drinks could be bought if we wanted any. All very smoothly and professionally done.
As we walked through the foyer it was easy to see where the toilets were and which entrance to the theatre we needed to head towards. I always like to check these areas off my list especially when I am with the children just so we don’t ever get caught out. On entry to the theatre we were again greeted by another smily member of staff who directed us to our seats and explained about booster seats for our smallest in case he needed one. From walking in to getting in our seats all was very efficient.
Our seats were in a great location, with plenty of leg room plus a good view. The set looked stunning, far more than I was imagining with its specially built castle with steps going up on either side of both turrets, gorgeous lighting and a screen.
Both boys were wowed by it all. Jake hadn’t been to a theatre show for a few years and this was William’s first time.
With the changes in rules due to the pandemic we did have to wear masks inside at all times unless eating and drinking but it wasn’t a hassle, I certainly didn’t feel too warm inside the theatre.
Tha Anvil’s Beauty and The Beast panto stars:
- Joe McFadden as Beast / Prince (Strictly Come Dancing Champion/Holby City)
- Chris Pizzey as Louis la Plonk (Basil Brush Show)
- Maria Coyne as Belle
- Nick Wilton as Polly La Plonk (Eastenders)
- Michael Quinn as Hugo Pompidou
- Marcus Knibbs as Clement
And it follows the well-known story from the film with a few changes such as Belle’s Dad being a painter rather than an inventor and with the addition of the fantastically hilarious characters of Louis and Polly. The Prince is turned into The Beast by a soceress who thinks he needs to learn a lesson, he spends his years in solitude at his castle only with his staff (Louis and Polly). Belle lives in the village with her father and is being persued by the egotistical Hugo (instead of Gaston). Belle wants more from life and when she switches places with her father as The Beast’s prisoner she certainly gets that and her love story begins. And I think you may know the ending…
From start to finish the show is packed full of laughs for both the kids and the adults (plenty of innuendos!), recognisable songs with new lyrics, audience participation and of course some “it’s behind you’s”!! Jake is almost 8 and he absolutely loved this panto. He got a lot of the jokes, he joined in with call outs, he laughed and was really involved. William is 4 (a young 4 I’d say) and he did really well in the first half but he did struggle to stay still during the second half – the show including the interval is 2 hours 20 minutes long so it is quite a while for a smaller child to sit for. What was quite reassuring was that the lights weren’t turned all the way down and there was a relaxed atmosphere with children talking, moving, adults taking some out which meant I didn’t have to feel like William was disturbing too many people. Thankfully the second half had a fantastic scene with a ghost (I won’t spoil it) and it grabbed his attention back and was most definitely his favourite part.
The casting was really good. In my opinion Louis and Polly made the show but I think the funny characters always do. They were so natural with the audience and even with a slight slip with the date, they made a joke, recovered and had all of us laughing.
Belle had an fantastic voice and the children all loved her in that famous golden dress. The transitions of Joe going from being the Prince to The Beast and vice versa were very cleverly done and my children particularly liked the lighting and effects.
I was really surprised to see the changing and moving set for a panto – you can tell I haven’t been to one for many years! It had all been really well planned out and really brought the show to life.
And I couldn’t end this review without mentioning the band. We had a great view of them and I loved seeing how they timed the songs, sound effects and interacted with cast. A think a live band really adds to a show and this team were brilliant.
Everybody had a fantastic time, the show was lots of fun for all ages and it really helped us to get into the Christmas spirit.
Beauty and The Beast is running at the Anvil until January 2nd 2022.
You may also want to check out our 2023 review of their Peter Pan Pantomime.
*We were given press tickets in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are our own. For further information please refer to my disclosure page.
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