Review: Beauty & The Beast (Liverpool Everyman)

The Everyman’s rock’n’roll pantomime is one of Liverpool’s favourite Christmas traditions, and this year’s riproaring extravaganza of comedy and song doesn’t disappoint.

Getting the inimitable Everyman treatment this time round (from regular writers Sarah A Nixon and Mark Chatterton) is the fairytale classic Beauty And The Beast. Playing the Beast (whose appearance could perhaps have been a tad more hideous) is Raj Paul, who’s a suitably commanding presence on stage. Stephanie Hockley is Rose White, the fairer of the two title characters, delighting the audience with her beautiful singing voice. Doing her best to sabotage their burgeoning relationship is Lucy Thatcher’s Narcissus McSissus, a performance of towering menace and malevolence.

Seasoned double act Adam Keast and pantomime dame Francis Tucker were reliably (as in stupendously) hilarious in their multiple roles, which included Belle, Sebastian, their respective twin siblings and, in one brief but memorable episode, Elvis Presley and Dolly Parton. They’re very skilful actors and their highly accomplished performances had the audience in stitches.

Tom Connor virtually stole the show with his multifaceted performance. As Sir Cyril of the Wirral he was initially a daft but loveable toff (played as a kind of dark haired Boris Johnson), but then after Narcissus McSissus cast an evil spell over him became a dastardly (but still pretty hopeless) villain. Connor also delivered some searing guitar solos and a mean moonwalk during a powerhouse rendition of Michael Jackson’s Bad.

The music, provided by a band comprising Greg Last and several of the actors, featured a string of crowdpleasing favourites, including YMCA, Islands In The Stream and the Locomotion (everyone on their feet time), climaxing with a rousing Proud Mary. An array of entertaining special effects included cars, trains, planes (and other flying objects), and characters who travelled through the air or emerged from subterranean depths. Colourful sets and costumes also helped to make the show a visual treat. Highpowered waterpistols were inevitably deployed with uncanny precision, and anyone who’d thought lurking at the back would spare them a soaking had a rude awakening.

The audience, adults and young kids alike, loved it and were yelling their appreciation at the end. If you’re looking for a Christmas (or New Year) treat you can’t go wrong with this.

***** A real Christmas cracker

Photos: Robert Day

Beauty And The Beast continues at the Everyman, Liverpool until 21 January.