Beauty and the Beast

Romsey Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society (RAODS) has a long tradition of producing excellent family pantomimes, often churning out shows that will rival the professionals. This year’s offering is a version of Beauty and the Beast, but one that is significantly different from the Disney version which people know and love so well: there is no talking teapot or singing candlestick. Instead there are the ‘hero’ – Felix, a giant French poodle who thinks he is human – and the traditional Dame, Mme. Du Pamplemousse (Ma to her friends!). However, the differences make for a fun-filled show that has the audience laughing and singing along.

Directed by Caroline Egg, this is a very colourful pantomime. The costumes are bright and simple, many of the household objects being played by more junior members, who, wearing simple tabards, bring their characters to life through their mannerisms rather than through over-complicated attire. The lighting, designed by Nigel Roache, really brings the show to life, although, as so often is the case, the actors don’t always find their spot, casting large shadows over faces.

Like the costumes, the scenery does not over-complicate the show, but instead works well with the bright costumes and lighting. The crew make light work of the set changes, and the stage manager, Helen Ford, is actually brought onto stage for a little role of her own – an interesting cameo! There are a handful of special effects that work very well, even if necessitating a quick clean-up operation mid-act.

With Alex ‘Teddy’ Clements as Musical Director, the music was always going to be strong, and the three-piece band is all that is really needed, with some very clever orchestrations that make you feel you may have heard them somewhere before! I am a huge fan of live music, and it was lovely to see the three musicians gel so well together – it certainly gives Chris Moses on sound a few challenges to get the right balance of singing voices, and I lost the diction of several of the songs. Chris works hard during the show, particular as the beast’s voice is manipulated to great effect – the challenge being to ensure that the beast’s microphone is not picking up the other actors when they are delivering their lines.

The hero, ‘Felix’, is played well by Colin Russell, with a slight French accent. Colin works the audience hard and has them calling out in all the right places. Emma Portlock gives a ‘strong’ performance as the blacksmith’s daughter, Capucine, finally marrying the slightly nervous Jacques, played convincingly by Jane Russell. The Dame is played by Alan Rimmer, whose performance works well both with his fellow actors and directly with the audience.

Dani Flecther’s portrayal of the evil witch is suitably menacing, while Jo Short’s Prince is matched perfectly against that of Rose, our ‘Beauty’, played with composure by Becky Mills. Matthew Ellison’s beast is both powerful and yet humble, and the sound effect used for his voice works brilliantly – it was a real shame that he didn’t take more praise as the curtain fell.

For me the only real weakness came from the script, which I felt lacked enough slapstick and only had a sporadic inclusion of audience participation, although Caroline brought the action right out to them as often as she could. That said, this was a delightful pantomime and deserves to have good audiences.

Future performances: 13, 20, 26 and 27 January at 7.30; 14, 21 and 28 January at 2.00 and 6.00; 15 and 22 January at 2.00.