There is always a lot of expectation of the shoulders of “The Dame” in that respect and here Antony Howes as Nurse Jackie O’LaLa delivers for young and old.
He has gags galore and once he gets into his stride is everything you would look for - a great combo of music hall, slapstick and stand-up. His role in The 12 Days of Christmas was a particular highlight.
He shares some nice moments (The Tongue-twister springs to mind) with Grant Urquhart as Silly Billy - who has bags of energy but maybe needs to relax and be a bit sillier.
That said, I did do a bit of head scratching. There were a couple of random almost unexplained scenes, set pieces that looked a little “work in progress”, some effective but strange special effects and odd song choices (although I did like the use of pop songs) - not to mention a 7ft rabbit (Peter Burrows The Posh mascot)!
But this is panto and anything goes as long as people have fun and are entertained - and we certainly were.
So what we ended up with is an enjoyable song and dance extravaganza with some terrific comic moments.
The songs were instantly recognisable to get the feet tapping and were sung very well.
Victoria Jane was a confident and likable Beauty with a great voice. And local girl Vanessa Boland earned plenty of boos as the villainous Carabosse, who when she wasn’t being evil showed off her vocal talent to great effect.
The talented young company dancers were simply outstanding - and wow did they get through some routines and costumes in two hours. Special mention here for teenager Harvey Matthewman whose enthusiasm and exuberance - not to mention his undoubted talent - on stage really shone through.
Beauty and The Beast runs until December 30. Tickets from www.cresset.co.uk