The is not Beauty or the Beast as we know them: Belle is an aspiring artist who has no time for love and the Beast wants to become a singer before his transformation. They get together with other wannabes on a theatrical talent show in hopes of becoming the next big thing and seem to be achieving something until a jealous magician starts performing his dark arts.
It’s always refreshing to reimagine an old story, but Andrew Pollard’s “theatrical reframing” is unwieldy in his storyline and too obvious in his imagination: because we’re in Paris, there’s a flower seller in a beret and Dame Sarah Sew-n-Sew wears a dress made of baguettes, while there’s a bland rendition of Bros’s When Will I Be Famous? by the fame-hungry characters.
Belle (Amiyah Goodall) is little more than a small role in the first act when she hangs out with hardly any lines. Beau (Ben Boskovic) becomes the Beast an hour into the show and resembles the cowardly lion from The Wizard of Oz, but also doesn’t feel central. It’s Sew-n-Sew (Terence Frisch) who dominates the stage in what appears to be a painfully drawn-out stand-up act with the weakest of jokes. None of the comedy lands as a whole, including the dirty jokes for the adults.
Under the direction of James Williams, it’s admirable to see a full-scale pantomime with just seven actors and there’s a helter-skelter, music-hall feel to the show that could have won. But the performances are flat, uncertain or off-key (literally in some songs) while the choreography is basic and the songs too quiet or slow. PK Taylor, an understudy for the magician Déjà Vu, is the strongest performer, even with the script in hand.
The energy picks up in the second half, but it also starts to turn into a pantomime version of Phantom of the Opera. Oddly enough, the best costume change comes as actors get their bows, making for an energetic medley of songs. As the show goes on too long after the story ends with sing-alongs and audience interaction, the Christmas spirit of good cheer has worn off for some of us.