"Beauty And The Beast", Burnley Mechanics
There is no entertainment quite like pantomime.
If things go wrong it just adds to the fun. If the cast forget their lines they just ad lib. If the audience want to become involved they can do. It's just great fun. (Except when you are drenched by characters wielding huge water pistols as you frequently are).
And when it's your teachers on stage acting daft it's even better.
That's what pupils at Brunshaw Primary School discovered on the opening night of "Beauty and the Beast" at Burnley Mechanics. A number of staff (and an ex-headteacher) are in the cast including the panto dame, teacher Kevin Kay.
He is playing Madame Fifi in the Burnley Pantomime Society production and, after taking over the role of dame a few years ago, he has grown in confidence in the annual fun fest. He now struts about the stage dressed as a blousey bouffanted woman as if he was born for the part.
On Friday's opening night he had possibly his toughest audience when pupils and staff from his school made up a large swathe of the packed house.
But he didn't let it faze him and bish bash bosh, after a quiet start he had the audience eating out of his hand.
It is always difficult when the audience is about 80% children. But this cast should be given a medal for keeping an audience of hundreds of youngsters happily entertained for nearly three hours. Some feat.
In the programme notes Dame Kevin, who is also the director, talks about teamwork. Well I have to agree with him for there are no stand out "stars" in this show. All the principals do an excellent job and are complemented throughout by the excellent Lynn McCheyne dancers from Sandersons, and the society's own large chorus. And if there were a few opening night hiccups no-one noticed, unless they were looking for them!
Leading the cast as Belle (Beauty) and the Prince (Beast) are Laura Chadwick and Gary Leonard. Kevin Kay is Madame Fifi, with Jonathan Pye her sidekick Jacques, Rebecca Wright is evil fairy Belledonna, with Jenny Gill and Leanne Bradshaw sharing the role of good Fairy Flora. Jamie Leigh Hindman and Kayleigh Hindle are Belle's sisters Ermengarde and Esmerelda, Leighton Hunt and Louise Young play Marcel and Monique, Greg Wharf is Gustave, Neil Tranmer plays Belle's father Alphonse and Pete Morville is Monsieur Le Fou. The co-director is Martin Chadwick and musical director Jonathan Chalker. Not forgetting all the volunteers helping out backstage and front of house, selling raffle tickets and refreshments and you have a real team effort.
I loved the pretty backdrops and excellent set, so well done set designer David (Wally) Walton, for this makes a real difference to the enjoyment of a show. When the curtains open on a stage set for panto you want the wow effect and this show doesn't disappoint. The costumes are excellent, glittering and colourful just as they should be and I loved the dance routines and the red-themed finale.
All in all Burnley's award-winning society - consisting completely of amateurs who give up their own time to attend weeks of relentless rehearsals to entertain us panto loving public - do an excellent job and all praise to them.
"Beauty And The Beast" isn't one of the most popular pantos, but I don't know why, because it is a lovely traditional tale of Belle the gentle natured girl who falls for the "beast" who is actually a prince who has been put under a spell by an evil sorceress. As in all good fairy tales we have a happy ending as Belle realises that beauty is only skin deep and it is the person underneath that matters.
I think the society did a great job bringing this story to the stage. Fortunately the bad weather has stayed away and the full house notices have been posted all week. The show closes on Sunday. You can check with the box office on 664400 to see if there are any seats available.
"Beauty And The Beast", Burnley Mechanics until Sunday, January 22nd 2017.