Paul Crofts reviews this year’s much anticipated rock ‘n’ roll panto at Theatr Clwyd in Mold, Flintshire.
I can’t tell you how good it felt to be back at Theatr Clwyd to see Beauty and the Beast, this year’s rock ‘n’ roll panto.
After what has been another trying year, an evening of good old-fashioned silliness, corny jokes, coupled the usual mix of hit songs performed by a multi-talented cast was just what the doctor ordered.
The show’s opening, more in traditional fairy-tale style, was beautifully staged before the set burst into life and we were in the more familiar surroundings of Pantoland.
With a cast featuring old hands including Daniel Lloyd as Willy (cue lots of Willy jokes) and the legend that is Phylip Harries as Nanna Nerys from Nercwys who had the audience in the palm of his hand from the moment he came on stage, I was really impressed by several newcomers, not least Izzy Neish as the heroine of the tale, Belle.
She brought a great down-to-earth warmth to the role and clearly has a stellar career ahead of her. Other standouts for me included the debonaire Wesley Charles who played The Beast/Daniel DeRuff.
No stranger to the Clwyd stage, Luke Thornton as Bob (sidekick to the swaggering stud muffin Barry Island, brilliantly played by Ben Locke) quickly became one of my favourites, his boundless energy and infectious, playful, childlike manner endearing him to the audience.
He also has some seriously impressive drumming skills! Luke was certainly under-used, I felt. It would have been great had he been given more to do.
The story had a touch of Cinderella about it with the introduction of Belle’s sisters – the brash, bone-idle Stacey and Nessa (Seren Sandham-Davies and Lynwen Haf Roberts) whilst good and evil were represented by the suitably boo-able Morgiana the Witch (Alice McKenna) and the sparkly Fairy Clogau – The Protector of Mold(Maya Manuel).
This was certainly a panto with a definite Welsh flavour to it. There were lots of local jokes, including a fair few aimed at Rhyl and as you would expect, several up to the minute topical gags aimed at the Prime Minister and those ‘Downing Street Christmas parties’.
I loved the gag about the PM and a Christmas tree but I won’t spoil it by giving anything further away. That said, I did find some of the jokes a bit near the knuckle and it did feel at times more like a panto aimed at the adults rather than the children, but it was clear that everyone in the audience was having a fabulous time and no-one (not even those of us sat at the very rear of the auditorium) was safe from some rather powerful water pistols!
The entire cast were involved in performing the musical numbers live on stage, doubling as both characters and band members, something which sets the Theatr Clwyd pantos apart from other productions and makes the experience all the more special.
From energetic numbers like I Wanna Dance With Somebody and It’s Raining Men to a beautiful version of Shallow, it was a joy to see this quadruple threat cast knock it out of the park each and every time.
Full marks must go to the wardrobe team, not least for Phylip Harries’s impressive costumes, which included Mary Poppins and Bake-off inspired creations, Nanna Nerys’s costumes were a riot of colour.
Although the set wasn’t perhaps as lavish as in previous years, it still served the action on stage well and the special effects including some impressive pyrotechnics really added to the spectacle.
The production team including director Tamara Harvey, writer Christian Patterson, musical director Tayo Akinbode and choreographer Annie-Lunnette Deakin Foster, have produced another stellar hit and it’s not hard to see why the panto remains one of the theatre’s must-see highlights of the year.
The team at Theatr Clwyd are to be congratulated on making the audience feel as safe as possible with all the various Covid measures in place. It was also good to see a number of performances are listed as socially distanced, meaning empty seats between audience members unless you’re seated with other members of your party and every other row is left empty.
Masks must be worn throughout and proof of vaccinations via online Covid passes or proof of a recent negative lateral flow test must be shown upon entry to the building but these are surely a small price to pay to make sure everyone remains safe inside the theatre.
It was certainly fantastic to be back at the Theatr on the hill and, just for a little while, to leave reality behind and enter the fabulous world of panto, oh yes it was!
We give Beauty and the Beast a festive four stars.
⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Beauty and the Beast – The Rock ‘n’ Roll Panto runs at Theatr Clwyd until 15 January 2022. www.theatrclwyd.com
Photos show: (photos credit Kirsten McTernan)
Main photo: Phylip Harries as Nanna Nerys from Nercwys in Beauty and the Beast at Theatr Clwyd
Daniel Lloyd as Willy and Phylip Harries as Nanna Nerys from Nercwys in Beauty and the Beast – The Rock ‘n’ Roll Panto at Theatr Clwyd
Izzy Neish as Belle in Beauty and the Beast – The Rock n Roll Panto at Theatr Clwyd
Ben Locke as Barry Island and Luke Thornton as Bob in Beauty and the Beast – The Rock ‘n ‘Roll Panto at Theatr Clwyd