Reviewed by Tammy Wildblood
It’s that time of the year when for ourselves that the Christmas period and countdown starts as its pantomime season, and for us this is where Christmas begins. We have been asked to do the review on Beauty and the Beast at the Derby Arena which we gladly accepted. We set off on a cold and windy December night with our two children wondering if our youngest of 19 months would be able to have the concentration levels to sit through a stage show for 2 hours and 45 minutes so this is where our adventure began.
What I was more intrigued was how the director of the play would be able to turn one of Walt Disney’s most famous films into pantomime as this is a classic in my eyes which I will go more into detail later in this review.
As we know the area where the Arena is can be congested with traffic, so we set out early and we would advise that anybody else to do the same as the traffic around Pride Park can be really bad with the volume of traffic that flows through there. Upon arrival we were welcomed by parking attendants at the Arena’s car park and for a fee of £3 you can park. The car park is an adequate size but for the volume of guests at the pantomime was a slight problem especially as the time went on but for us, we had no issues due to the time we arrived. There are a range of restaurants, pubs and fast food restaurants within the surrounding area which you can visit if you do turn up early.
Once we entered the arena we made our way to Cafe 42 which is just located within the foyer to have something to eat, we ordered burgers and hot dogs and a couple of drinks which wasn’t too expensive and tasted very nice so you can feed and water yourself for a total of £20 which we thought was reasonable for an Arena.
Once we’d eaten, we made our way over the box office to collect our tickets, the staff were friendly and spoke to us with a smile on their faces and asked if we were looking forward to the pantomime, you could tell that is was an opening night as a few staff members were flapping around but this is understandable and we was there early so things were still being prepared.
The only thing that disappointed us about the arena staff and this is something that I would say that needs to be addressed ASAP is when they are holding a major event that they have more staff members on the front desk as we couldn’t find the baby changing facilities and waited 10 minutes at the desk to receive no response so asked some door staff who said we needed a key who then waited another 5 minutes at the desk to be told we couldn’t use that one so we was then escorted through to the stage area which wasn’t open to the public and the staff had to wait for us so we felt we had to rush but it just confused us as this is a family show but there were no toilets available to the public before the show and if there was, we was unaware of them so maybe signs are needed which would take the pressure off the customer service staff.
Once we were in the back area waiting for the stage doors to be opened you was able to purchase drinks, sweets and merchandise for the performance. The drinks were adequately priced and for £20 you could get yourself a beer, glass of wine couple of soft drinks and a box of chocolates which wasn’t too bad. The glowing toys were all £5 which was a good price and really cheap in my eyes.
Programmes were £3 and were brilliant as there were also puzzles in it for the children and some places they have been £10 so that’s a massive thumbs up from us.
Once the stage doors were opened, we were approached by the staff to see if we would liked to be shown to our seats which we accepted as we could see that it they may be difficult to find. The staff took us with a smile on their face and were chatty but after sitting there for 5 minutes and getting settled, we were then told we had to move by another member of staff as we were in the wrong seats, the gentleman apologised for the mistake and we were shown to the correct seats so maybe extra training is needed here but the staff dealt with it really well.
Personally, we would recommend that maybe 15 minutes before the show starts that a call is put out so everybody is seated as when it was time to start there were still people being shown to their seats but this was the level of traffic so guests were late attending.
The stage for a theatre production in an arena setting felt weird as normally these type of productions are set out in a theatre but I have to say it worked really well, the only problem I found was the sound and projection of actors voices wasn’t projected well enough sometimes and the music overpowered the singing at some points but for the most of it, it was fine.
The stage was set out in bright colours and lights which was great for attracting the children’s attention. From our seats you had an amazing view and would have to say no matter where you were seated you would have an amazing view of the production as the actors came out into the audience and there was use of zip wires which was an amazing and captivating moment.
Gwen Taylor – The Enchantress; Gwen played this part really well and you could see from the moment she walked on staged that she was the baddy as she managed to get the audience to boo her and shout at her which started the whole pantomime process off and set the tone for the rest of the performance. She worked the stage and made good eye contact with the audience at all times when she was on stage she made you want to boo her. 5/5 for her performance could not fault her at all.
Nathan Turner – Beast / Prince Philippe; Nathan for me played the part of the beast better than he did as the prince. The beast he played with no fault at all, he looked scary and the sounds he was making were brilliant and added to his part and some children hid away. When he played Prince Philippe he didn’t seem so confident as if he didn’t enjoy playing the Prince as much as he did beast. When he was beast you understood every single words that came out of his mouth, you heard them no problem at all but when he was the Prince, it was difficult to hear him. Overall, I enjoyed his performance so I would have to give 4.5/5 only because of the timid acting when playing the prince.
Aston Dobson – Gaston; for me this actor was a little lost on stage, lacked conviction in saying his lines found him hard at times to hear him. I just didn’t take to him as actor. For me, if he interacted with the audience more and not had stood side on at all time I might have enjoyed his performance more. I would have to give him 3/5 for his performance.
Thomas Bird – Le Fool; This actor was mainly on stage with Gaston and for me gave more of a performance then Gaston, he was funny at times, interacted with the audience which was good, always had god eye contact and he projected his lines well so you could understand them at all times, the only thing I would like to say is that if you’re going to play your character with a black country accent stay in a black country accent because now again he came away from it, but overall you couldn’t fault his performance it was really good but room for improvement 4/5.
Louise Olley – Belle; I would say she was one of the top performers because it was just a faultless from her, she played the part well, interacted with everyone really well, her singing was enchanting and you good hear every single word she said. She worked the staged well, used every ounce of the stage. 5/5 for her performance really good job on stage.
Ben Faulks – Idle Jacques; Now this was one of the star performances of the night along with his mother, they both reminded me of The Krankies in pantomime, he just owned the stage, got everyone in the audience to interact with him, got everyone shouting what he needed them to shout, you could hear all his lines, he had me in stitches at times and you know it’s a faultless performance is when your 19 month son cannot keep his eyes of them. 6/5 that’s just how good he was on stage.
Robert Traynor – Marcel; Good performance acted well with others on stage, worked well with others, good performance all the way round. 4.5/5 for performance, just because others on the night did better.
Morgan Brind – Betty Brioche; Oh my god top performance of the night, I was in stitches at the performance, I just couldn’t stop laughing at them every time they were on stage, they just owned the stage, had everyone in sync with one another, it was just superb. Needs more of starring role in the show. 6.5/5 for his performance cannot fault it any way, shape or form.
Overall, on the performance of the show, I would have to say part one was more like a stage musical then panto but still good overall. Part two of the show was more panto and had more of the audience interacting with them. Overall you wouldn’t be disappointed seeing this show, its laughter all the way through, great singing and great acting. Good night all way round. I would highly recommend it and if it can keep a toddler captivated for the whole show then isn’t that what it’s all about?
5/5 total family enjoyment.
Tickets cost from £13.50 to £31.50
Beauty and the Beast is at the Derby Arena from 5-31 December 2017, for more information or to book tickets visit www.derbyarena.co.uk or call the box office on 01332 640011.
Derby Arena, Royal Way, Pride Park, Derby, DE24 8JB | 01332 640011